At first, swimming was just a hobby for Paula Carmela Cusing.
But when she started winning medals in local tournaments, Cusing began to embrace the sport on a competitive level.
‘We just actually wanted to have a summer activity that time. Then we saw an announcement that there will be a learn-to-swim program at the Amoranto Stadium, we tried it since we’re living a few meters away from the venue,” Cusing narrated.
It was in 2011 when Cusing, and her brother Paul Christian King started their journey as swimmers.
“At first, I was really hesitant because I really don’t know how to swim, well every kids have this kind of ‘I might get drowned’ mentality. But as days go by, I started to enjoy it,” Cusing continued.
Since then, Cusing has been actively joining training camps just for fun.
In 2012, Cusing began competing in different tournaments but it was in 2013 when she won her first gold medal in a competition organized by the Philippine Swimming League (PSL) headed by multi-titled swimmer Susan Papa.
“When I won my first gold medal, I began to think differently. I wanted more. I want to win more medals. I’ve been training hard to be more competitive and improve my time,” she said.
Her feat was recognized by her school — Diliman Preparatory School (DPS)—and elevated her as varsity swimming team member. She’s now a Grade 8 student.
“I was really happy when I heard that they included me in the varsity team because this time I’m not just swimming for myself and my family but I’m now representing my school. It’s really an honor,” Cusing said.
Being a student-athlete has pros and cons. But she opted to focus on the positive side of it.
“There are a lot of positive things in being a student-athlete. It taught me a lot in life, in everything that I do and I think it’s an advantage,” Cusing added.
From Monday to Friday, Cusing along with her teammates at DPS varsity team trains from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
“It’s a bit exhausting. After school, we’ll be training then home, then doing homework. But at the end of the day, it’s helping me to be a better person like how to manage my time, how to prioritize things,” Cusing stressed.
Cusing’s hard work paid off as she won a number of medals in international competitions.
She was part of the gold medal relay team in the 2014 Indian Ocean All-Star Challenge in Perth, Australia, and won one silver in the prestigious 2015 Tokyo International Swimming Championship in Tokyo, Japan.
“That’s my motivation. My medals. I want to strive harder to achieve my goals both in school and in the sport that I love of course with the help of my parents, my coaches and coach Susan Papa who always give inspirational words to all of us,” she said.
Her ultimate goal as a swimmer? Making it to the Olympics.
“It’s a long-term goal, an impossible dream for some people. But if you are determined enough and you put your heart on it, you’ll achieve whatever you want in life,” Cusing concluded.