PRECOCIOUS Filipino-American teener Zhaira Costiniano towered over everyone else to become the youngest women’s champion of the National Figure Skating Championships at the SM Mall of Asia International Skating Rink in Pasay City last weekend.
Banking on a seamless long program, Costiniano, who in a year grew three inches to 5-foot-5 and turned 15 yesterday, Bonifacio Day, was the runaway winner with a total of 121.27 points, counting her frontrunning tally of 40.73 points in the short program earlier.
The pretty chinky-eyed Immaculate Conception high schooler dethroned defending women’s champ and fellow Fil-Am Mericien Venzon, who was relegated to runnerup honors with 103.2 points. Another Fil-Am, Mary Grace Baldo, was third (93.25).
Chicago-based Fil-Am Maverick Clint Eguia, vying for the first time in the nationals, suffered jitters in performing in front of the local gallery and had a few tumbles in the long program on the way to scoring 118.40 points as the lone entry in the men’s senior division of the meet sponsored by SM and Pepsi
“I tried my very best and just slight mistakes. I’m so happy that I won,” said Costiniano of the triumph, which was a brilliant follow-up to clinching the national juniors’ crown last year.
“I think it was my clean jumps and spins that won it for me,” added Costiniano, who saw action for the country at the World Junior Grand Prix in Turkey early this year.
“She deserves a good dessert for winning this trophy,” said her delighted mom, Raquez Costinianio, who disclosed that her daughter had been on a strict diet the last six months following her growth spurt to keep her lean and trim for the competition.
“I knew I was behind after the short program and just did my best, but we fell short,” said Venzon, 19, a premed student at the University of California- Los Angeles .
She added that she also had a double up in training for the event since she had commute back to San Francisco on weekends where her home skating rink is.
On hand to award the trophies and medals to the winners were Philippine Skating Union chairman Hans Sy and president Pocholo Veguillas, who noted the strong level of competition in this year’s tournament.
“Our skaters have consistently improved over the past but admittedly we still have a long way to go,” Veguillas said.
Homegrown talent Chelcie Jo Mahinay topped the junior ladies division with 89.61 points, besting debuting Fil-Am Ashley Aquino Brickman, a cousin of President Benigno Aquino III, who settled for second with 89.30 points.
The other winners were: Alyssa Comia in the Novice Ladies Division, Mari Anne Estefani Guerra (Intermediate A Ladies), Julie Marie Ignacio (Intermediate B Ladies), Louwee Shibata (Juvenile A Ladies), Francine Chloe Ramirez ( Juvenile B Ladies), Sofia Isabel Victoria Guidote (Pre-juvenile A Ladies), Dominique Sabine Katigbak (Pre-juvenile B Ladies), and Gabriel Briones (Pre-juvenile B Male).