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Big City bet Rachelyn Astillar dominated the secondary girls’ women’s rhythmic gymnastics by taking all four gold medals – on rope, hoops and ribbon categories and the individual all-around competition.

An incoming senior at Jose Abad Santos School in Tondo, Rachel surpassed expectations of her mentors and teammates with her four gold medals following her all-silver medal finishes in the 2007 Palaro last year.

Cheering the four-time Palaro player are her parents, Rewel, a seaman, and Marivic, who came all the way from Manila to support their daughter. In her first stint in the Palaro in 2005, Rachelyn already showed great promise when she grabbed a gold medal in one of the events.

I had been earlier apprehensive that she’s injure herself but when she won five gold medals in a competition in Metro Manila, where I heard my family name called during the awarding rites, I was eventually convinced of her ability and became prouder of her, said Rachelyn’s father, who is watching his daughter’s Palaro performance for the first time.

The champion started her gymnastics interest in the fourth grade, when she would watch her best friend Jhenny Hingco, showcase her skills. In gymnastics, I eventually gained more friends, she said. She paid tribute to her first trainor, her grade school teacher, Lourdes Alcantara, for her patience in helping her as a budding gymnast.

Eventually, a former gymnast, Blueberry Gulfan, took over as her mentor after she graduated from high school. The best talaga si Rachel, her mentor said, adding that the girl has demonstrated remarkable self-discipline, including in her diet, by eating rice only once a day and “tinapay o ulam” for the rest of her meal requirements.

I would suffer as a gymnast if I don’t regulate my food intake, she said, as the girl reiterated her thanks to her supporters and reminded aspiring athletes “to heed their coaches’ advice and observe self-discipline in their time management, diet and other aspects of their daily life”.

By: Jan Byron Buitizon