The dreams of this aging road warrior still burns like ember
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Over the years, sports has transformed countless of lives for the better. And bemedalled cross country mountainbiker Niño Surban is one of those who was given a better life by engaging into sports.
Cycling or biking saved the life of Niño, who had no other ambition but to become a top rider.
“Kung wala ko sa mountainbike, way siguro nga tambay lang siguro ko ron,” narrated Niño during the first episode of CDN Sportstalk for the year 2020.
(If I wasn’t into mountainbike, most probably I’ll just be loitering around.)
Niño had bagged a silver medal in the mountainbike cross country competition of the recent 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games that the Philippines hosted from November 30 to December 11, 2019.
“Since bata pa ko, balik tag grade 1, naa man jud na nga pangutan-on ka unsay gusto nimo inig kadako nimo, sa tinood lang wa man jud koy nahunahunaan na mag doctor or mag police ba ko, kabaw ba ka unsa ako tubag ato, gusto ko mag rider jud ko. So kung wala ko nagbike, wa koy pangarap ing-ana, basin mapareha ko sa uban, wa ta kabaw na priso nako ron,” explained Niño.
(Since I was a kid, let’s go back to first grade wherein you get asked what you want to become when you grow up, honestly I never had any thoughts of becoming a doctor or a police, you know what my answer was, I want to become a rider. So, if I wasn’t biking, I didn’t have this ambition, I’d probably end up just like the others, who knows I could probably be in prison now.)
Motocross was his real passion
Biking is actually not Niño’s first love. It was motocross.
“Ani man gud ang storya ana, sa tinoud jud ako ganahan motorcross jud since bata pa ko. Ganahan kaayo ko ug motor, makakita ko ug mag train sa amoa, gusto jud ko ug motor, gusto jud ko naa ko motor pero pobre man mi wa man mi ikapalit ug motor so wala lang,” said Niño.
(This is the story behind that. Honestly, what I really wanted since I was young was motocross. I really like motorcycles, I see riders training in our place, I really wanted to have my own motorbike. But, we were poor and couldn’t afford one.)
Niño said that he contented himself with asking motocrossers if he could ride their bikes even if he doesn’t have to drive it, just simply sitting on the motorbikes already made him happy.
He got interested in mountainbiking because they had a neighbor who was into it. So he asked for a bike and his father bought him a BMX bike.
However, he wasn’t able to join races because at that time there were no longer competitions for BMX bikes.
One day, he went with their neighbor to a mountainbike race in Minglanilla, a town south of Cebu City, and right there and then, his love for mountainbiking solidified.
As soon as they got back, he asked his two aunts, who had raised him, for a mountainbike and from there, there simply was no lookibg back for Niño.
Although deep inside, his heart remained with motocross.
“Ana ko sige ko lumba, gusto ko makusgan ko, gusto ko mudaug sa mga lumba kay mag save ko para makapalit ko dirtbike,” said Niño.
(I told myself to keep joining races, I wanted to be strong, I wanted to always win races coz I wanted to save enough to buy myself a dirtbike.)
Eventually, Niño aspired to be part of the Philippine national mountainbike team and in just two years of racing, he got in at just the age of 16. Young as he was then, Niño was already racing in the elite class as a member of the national team.
SEA Games stint
After two bronze medals in four tries in the SEA Games, Niño was finally able to clinch a silver medal in his fifth SEA Games which is six years after his last SEA Games in 2013 in Myanmar.
“Lipay kaayo kay bisan tiguwang na naka silver gihapon,” said Niño of his most recent achievement.
(I am so happy because even if I am old already, I still won a silver.)
There was no mountainbike event in the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games held in Singapore and Malaysia, respectively.
The silver has rekindled Niño’s passion for the sport that admittedly gave him a better life. After achieving his dream of competing in the World Championships in Italy and World Cup in 2015, Niño was idle in 2016.
In 2018, he was encouraged by Philcycling vice president Oscar “Boying” Rodriguez, who has been supporting him from the start, to compete in the Philippine National Games (PNG) which was hosted by Cebu and the Philippine Mountainbike National Championships. He bagged a gold in both races which qualified him to the 30th SEA Games. But despite of that, Niño had no plans of racing in the biennial meet.
However, Durano once again asked him to race and make the 30th SEA Games his last, to which Niño agreed. He was then reinstated into the national team January of 2019.
After bagging the silver medal, Niño came to realize that he was meant to stay. Thus, he will continue to train and to race but this time with a fervent prayer of qualifying for this August’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Because at 32 years old, Nino remains a certified dreamer. /rcg
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