Written by Florian May D. Besana and Maria Maningning R. Miclat of the Ateneo de Davao University Track and Field Team
My passion for Track and Field took me to places beyond everything I can imagine. Fortunately, during the summer of 2017, we had the chance to train in Europe. Travelling 3 countries and 10 cities for 2 weeks together with my track and field coach Airnel Abarra, my father, and my teammate Maria Miclat, with her father, and two of coach’s students, to document our training camp on Germany and Czech Republic.
I’ve explored breathtaking landmarks, cities and even forests and I’ve learned a lot of values just by observing the people there.
Practicing time discipline and the stewardship of the environment are some of the things I learned in Europe. The people there are extremely precise on scheduling and managing their time. Practicing time management was relevant to me because they value time by practicing punctuality in everything they do and if you do not manage your time wisely there, you will surely be left behind. On that, it is a significant lesson for us, to discipline ourselves and truly value the essence of time and not waste it.
Walking around the cities is a bliss because the surroundings were colorful, pretty, and tidy. Among all the cities, Paris was very crowded, yet people observed cleanliness and orderliness. For me, as an Atenean, it is a huge responsibility to take care of my surroundings wherever I go.
We were welcomed by our lovely hosts and they have showed the value of openness and they gave us a truly pleasant stay in Europe. We visit incredible churches and see old buildings and sights. I am truly grateful they were open to give us convenient place to stay and to try their traditional food. The desserts and ice creams had quite a kick due to its unique taste.
On the other hand, as an athlete, it was such a huge honor to train outside the country with the help of Coach Airnel Abarra. Training in Czech Republic and Germany was truly a blessing. Honestly, my teammate Maria and I were more nervous than excited when coming to Ostrava, to meet and train with international track athletes. We found it difficult at first because we were new to some of the events since we lacked the proper sports equipment in our school to minimal performance in some events in the track and field We realized that there is a lot of events besides running.
We found it learning it all in one day, yet we were very excited. Trying hurdles, long jump, and high jump from distinguished sports personalities such as Coach Fatima Kostkova and German National Athlete Alexandra Burghardt who were supportive in extending their knowledge in the sport.
Based from my great experience there, the athletes in Ostrava were so friendly and we were able to have a sense of camaraderie. I think it is important for an athlete to possess a friendly attitude towards meeting new people in sports. For me, if you have the right attitude for sports or in anything you put your heart into, it would be easy for you to accomplish your own goals.
I was excited to go to Germany for our next training. We held our training camp there for 3 days.
On the first day, we did sprinting. I always put in mind that in sprinting, as it is a must to master the form first. After you’ve mastered your form, then you work on your speed. It takes a lot of hard work and months to practice and learn to correct your form. So as an athlete, I must have consistency and patience.
On day two, we were taught by Coach Michael Germann- the Athletics director of MTG Mannheim, on how to properly perform high jump, since we were given the freedom to choose what we wanted to learn. We chose high jump since we found it very challenging. In addition to that, coach Michael gave me a few creative ideas on how to build improvised hurdles through reusing old materials like using bamboo sticks and cutting old tires in half and placing a long stick on both of the tires.
Lastly on our third day, it was such an honor to meet Alexandra Burghardt. Maria and I asked her a few questions on what it was like to be a professional athlete. For her, it involved a lot of training and hard work yet she tells us that what’s more important is that she enjoys it and she has fun. She just does what she loves and what I find very enlightening is that she isn’t hard on herself. For me, Alexandra Burghardt is a good role model for young athletes to look up to as she showcases determination on doing what you love yet it is all about you having fun in the sport. On our morning training, she taught us her daily routine. I’ve learned from her that when it comes to sprinting, our entire body should be stretched, so we feel the muscles on our body move when we run, this enables us to level up power.
On our entire trip, the lesson that I’ve learned is simple. Work hard to live your dream and only you can define your own success.
6 countries, 14 cities, and 5 days of training.
The experience was surreal. I never expected this event to happen. I always thank God for giving me the opportunity to join this trip. Without our coach, our training camp in Europe would not have come to fruition.
It all started in Paris, my ultimate dream travel destination. Coach Airnel met up with my father and I at the airport. After resting due to long air travel, we left our luggage in our hotel, and started looking for a restaurant. We found a Korean Restaurant close to the hotel and it was quite ironic that we ate in an Asian restaurant in Paris.
After our delicious lunch, we went back to the hotel for a quick rest. We went to Notre Dame, the only tourist destination we went to that day. Despite our jet lag, we were overwhelmed by the majestic and historical structure that best defines France.
We explored the rest of Paris on our second day. My father and I visited the Eiffel Tower. I was in awe. Photographs don’t do it justice. The little in girl me could not believe that my childhood dream was right of front of me.
On our last day in Paris, we went to the Arc de Triomphe, and strolled around Champs-Elysées. Afterwards, we went to Montmarte, a butte or high hill where the Church of Sacre Coeur is located. Our Paris leg was slowly coming to a close. Despite the short time we spent there, it made me look forward to the rest of our trip.
After Paris, we went to Czech Republic. Our training camp has officially begun. We were exposed to various sports that we weren’t used to seeing back in AdDU. Aside from running, we also did hurdles and high jump. The experts made it look so easy but once we tried it, we realized the level of skill needed to properly execute the moves.
I was surprised that we were trained in the field of gymnastics. At first, I found it odd since we were track and field athletes but I came to realize the benefit of learning from other sports and disciplines.
The Czech athletes, coaches, and host were such kind-hearted people. They encouraged us to do better during the training camp. They surely made it feel like home.
The next leg of the training camp was in Germany. We explored Berlin and the nearby destinations including the Federal Training Center in Kienbaum, Bradenburg. We also visited the sports museum where we saw how advanced the German Sports System was during the Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany) era.
After Kienbaum and Berlin, we travelled to Mannheim, the home of the top German National Athletes. We had our three-day training camp there. On our first day of training, we practiced relay. Florian and I felt pressured because the athletes in our age group were very fast. We learned not to let the pressure get to us and we slowly got the hang of it. At the end of the day, we saw how sports really brought people together. The athletes were very understanding and encouraged us to do better.
On the second day, we were trained in high jump. We were not used to this since we mostly do running events back home. It was very challenging. We didn’t expect it to be that difficult to do. The technique taught by the coach required constant practice, something we didn’t have the luxury of doing.
We met Alexandra Burghardt on our last training day. She was the first runner of the 4x100m relay in the 2017 IAAF World Relays in Bahamas where the German Women’s Relay team won the gold medal. She is such an inspiring and kind person. During our training session with her, she shared with us different tips and techniques, as well as inspiring anecdotes. She is the epitome of a hard working athlete.
I never thought that I would come across an opportunity like this. I met a lot of wonderful and inspiring people from that part of the world. Even though that chapter in Europe has ended, my life as a student athlete still continues.