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THOSE LOOKING for role models among today?s youth need not look very far. There was a fine bunch of them gathered during the send-off party hosted by Pharmaton for the Philippine delegation to this year?s Youth Olympics in Singapore, which starts today and runs until Aug. 26.

The powerhouse group included Patricia Llena for weightlifting; Jeson Patrombon for tennis; Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna for swimming; Kirk Barbosa for taekwondo; and Jeron Teng, Bobby Ray Parks, Cris Michael Tolomia and Michael Anthony Pate, all for basketball.

Llena is an unassuming lass from Wesleyan University Philippines in Cabanatuan, but she has several world titles for a sport usually associated with males?weightlifting. She was overjoyed when she was chosen to carry the country?s colors in Singapore.

A bronze medalist in the 63kg category at the Asian Weightlifting Championship held in Uzbekistan, Llena said it was her father?s weightlifting that drew her into the sport.

?I wanted to try it out for myself,? she said. ?I officially started training when I was 8, but I have been lifting weights since I was 4.?

Now 16, Llena has been at it for eight years now. She enjoys training, but admits that, like everything else, it has its drawback.

?I can?t hang out as often as I used to in my friends? house because I train immediately after my class finishes,? she said. ?There are times I feel lazy to train, but my father, who is also my coach, would remind me that not everyone has been given the opportunity I have to pursue what I want, so I should work hard because the rewards will come after.?

On top of her game

During Llena?s first World Powerlifting Competition in Brazil in 2009, she won the title and beat the three-time champion from Russia. It didn?t matter that she had arrived only a day earlier and was still feeling woozy.

Recently, she broke three Asian records at the Asian Powerlifting Championship in Mongolia.

It was through her sport that Llena was able to help her family financially. She bagged a college scholarship and became independent, since she was earning her own pocket money. But the best part, she said, is bringing honor to her country.

Her advice to peers? ?There will be a lot of challenges that will test your strength?physically, emotionally and spiritually; but always stay positive, and strive not just in sports, but in all the things we do.?

Get that ball

The Philippines? basketball representatives to the Youth Olympics in Singapore are Jeron Teng (Xavier), Michael Pate (LSGH) and Cris Michael Tolomia (FEU). How do they prepare themselves for the games? Here are some tips:

1Make every practice an opportunity to improve. The clich that practice makes perfect still holds true, because you learn more about yourself and your skills when you spend time and extra effort developing what you can already do.

2Listen to your coaches. You can really learn a lot from their wisdom and experience?who knows, the play by play they did 20 years ago could still win your team the championship.

3Focus. A lot of things can go wrong if you don?t give it your full attention. You should put your mind and heart into whatever you do; that shows how much you want something to happen. Keep your eyes on the prize.

4 Practice self-discipline. As student athletes, we have to balance our studies and our sport. It is difficult, especially when school work is piling up, but self-discipline and proper time management should help us through. Know how to mix work with play.

5 Dream BIG If you are going to dream, aim high, because you wouldn?t lose anything, anyway. We never thought we?d get here, but we made it! And you can, too, if you believe in yourself. If you can dream it, you can most definitely do it.