The Early 80s was an exciting era for Philippine Track and Field. The country was winning international sports events in the region here and there and medals were not hard to come by. A few athletes instantly became household names. Among them is a no-nonsense runner and durable heptathlon athlete named Elma Muros.
Born January 14, 1967 in Magdiwang, Sibuyan Island, Romblon to a farming family, she was 6th in a brood of 9. Relatives had already inkling what she was going to be even at young age. Her mother Alice was once a 400-meter runner herself in her youth; and at a young age, Elma loved to jump over plants.
But her real entry to professional sports came early when at 14 she competed and caught the attention of local government agencies eyeing potential athletes at the regional sports meet: the Southern Tagalog Regional Athletics Association (STRAA). She was handpicked by then Governor Isidro Rodriguez of Rizal and became an athletic scholar at Roosevelt College in that province while all the time training and competing. She was also one of the star athletes of high-profile sports program called Gintong Alay.
A Very Talented Junior
It didnt take Elma long to get noticed by then Gintong Aloy sports Director Michael Keon, infact later that same year she was discovered in the Palaro system in 1981 she became the youngest entry in Philippine History to participate in the SEA Games. Although finishing fourth in her pet long jump event with a leap of 5.64m. Muros teamed with the veteran Lorena Morcilla and two other young sprinters 17 year old Lydia De Vega and 16 year old Perla Balatucan to win the silver medal in the 4x100m Relay.
In 1983 at the age of 16, Muros captured the first of eight sea games titles in the Long Jump with a leap of 6.06m .This established what would be a continued domination of Philippine Women at the SEA Games in the Long Jump as they won it every year from then up until now apart from in 2001. She would defend that title the following sea games (6.11m).
What is special about this leap as a testament to the uniqueness of Elma’s ability the record remains unbroken. With eventual National Record Holder Marestella Torres leaping 6.03m being the closest some 15 years later.
Rivalry with Lydia De Vega
The Philippines was not blessed with several remarkable female athletes in the 1980s. It can be said that depth is very important to help produce champions. There was Lydia De Vega but there was also a supporting cast of female sprinters at the time who where very good sprinters in there own right Ganosa, Sinoro, Lobos, Punelas-Carpio, Balatucan, Nolido..
Elma excelled in both track and field events and became as much of a household name to the general public at the same time as Lydia. The fact the Philippines had not just one but two high performing and attractive female athletes led to an all time high interest with the general public with track stadiums packed. De Vega would venture into the long jump taking the sea games title from Elma in 1987 with a leap of 6.27m.
In 1989 Elma took the record back at the National Training Games in Baguio with a leap of 6.39m. (Elma then won the next six sea games titles in the Long Jump). Elma won eight of the nine events she entered in Baguio. Ran 14.0 in 100 Hurdles into a head wind, 24.1 in 200m dash. Muros gave SEA Games Champion Nene Gamo a good fight in the Heptathlon but was forced to quit after hurting her back in the highjump.
She would next enter Far Eastern University to take up B.S. Management and meet fellow sports scholar from Mindanao named Jorge “Jojo” Posadas. While an early marriage was not in her plans, it was a match made in “sports heaven”. So at 21 she decided to quit school and raise a family (she had two children Klarizze and George Jr.)
In all these years, Elma remained steadfast and dedicated in her career as an ASEAN or Asian region wide) athlete. And the hard work did not go unrewarded either. She has accumulated more than 200 medals and has been cited by different organizations for the honor she has brought to her country.
Asked which is the most special,
Elma avers, “Lahat ng medalya ko espesyal sa akin, ginto man o simpleng ribbon lang yan, kasi pinaghirapan ko lahat yan” (All my medals are important, gold or simple ribbon, because I worked hard to get it).
The ‘Iron Woman’ of Philippine Athletics
With the departure of Lydia De Vega-Mercado to start a family and her eventual retirement in 1993. Elma quickly established herself as the Alpha female of Philippines Track and Field. Elma’s career thrived in the 1990s where she began to bag countless awards and collect magnanimous titles from various prestigious events all around the globe.
For one, she was awarded as the “Athlete of the Year” after the 1996 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games not only by one but two athletic institutions known as the Sports Communication Organization of the Philippines or SCOOP and the Philippines Sports Writers’ Association or PSA.
Muros who was dubbed as the ‘Iron Woman’ of the Philippines, also seized the legendary epithet of “SEA Games Heptathlon Queen” subsequent to her control of the heptathlon in the 1997 Southeast Asian Games. The swift Filipina sprinter and long jumper hurdled her way to success as she won a total of 15 Southeast Asian gold medals and many other more awards including a bronze medal from a 400-meter hurdle in the 1990 Beijing Asiad and another Bronze in the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad Long Jump. But for the retired trackster, her sweetest triumph was the Century Dash that she won in the December 1996 SEA Games in Thailand.
End of an Era
Last September 2001 after finishing bronze at the heptathlon events at the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Elma finally announced her retirement. Long after her erstwhile contemporaries like Lydia de Vega and Isidro del Prado have left the sports world and after 21 years of competition and holding a total of 15 SEA Games gold medals, one of the most by any athlete,
She says, “Alam ko na sa isip at katawan ko na pwede pa ako pero tama na. Nakamit ko na ang lahat na pwede kong makamit. Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos binigyan ako ng pagkakataong makamit ang mga karangalang ito.” (I know in my mind and body that I can still do it but it is over. I have gotten everything I aimed for. I am thankful to the Lord for giving me these chances to get all these medals.)
Back in 2002, the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) President Go Teng Ko announced Elma’s retirement. He said that their emotions clashed as they all felt both happy and sad by Elma’s decision. They were saddened because they will surely miss Elma and her amazing humility despite her huge success. On the other hand, they also felt happy because they became part of her glorious life and career at the least.
The joy and honor that she had brought them were incomparable as well. As the group moved on from Elma’s retirement, they shared with the Iron Woman’s new goal in life — to train more young and promising tracksters. Thus an important era in Philippine Track and Field History came to an end with the last of three major stars of the Gintong Aloy days ending a career which spanned over 20 years.
Now and Then: Elma Today
But she has not giving up sports altogether. Though her competition days are now behind her, she is teaching and sharing her experiences this time. She presently serves as Consultant for Grassroots Level for the Philippine Sports Commission where she discovers and scouts young athletes with potentials from the provinces and other schools. As the head coach for University of the East Women Tracksters, Elma last December 14-17, 2002 propelled her ward to glory by winning the Championship in the women’s athletics division of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Tournament, dethroning former winner, University of Sto. Tomas.
Asked about this feat, Elma says,
“Talagang masaya ako kasi natupad na rin yung pangako ko sa UE Administration na kunin naman yung Championship within three years, and our sacrifices paid off.” (I am really happy because I fulfilled the promise to the UE Administration to snatch the Championship).
Busy Elma also reveals she derives the same, if not more enjoyment training young students at Brent International School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. She says “It is a lot better to teach young kids sometimes because they are just starting and they don’t have bad habits to unlearn unlike older wards.” But most of all, Elma is a hands-on wife and mother. Even with household help, she makes sure she has a say on the meal planning and how the house is maintained. “I like to fix the house a lot. That is why when I went to Magdiwang for one day last December, all I did was to stay inside the house and fix things there. I also hung some of my sports memorabilia on the walls of our old house so that my relatives and neighbors would get a chance to read my experiences and accomplishments. Later some children and teachers came over and interviewed me.”
These Days Elma Muros is also a tv celebrity, she appeared in a series of the Philippine version of Survivor and also played a role as ‘Coach Rose’ on the Filipino Indie Cinema Film Thelma. That tells the story of a runner who Elma shares a similar life story to.
Finally, what is Elma Muros Posadas message to her idols and young athletes who want to follow her footsteps?
“Walang imposible sa isang atleta na determinado at gusto ang ginagawa nila. Pero kung tamad siya at walang dediskasyon sa ginagawa niya, walang patutunguhan.” (There is nothing imposible to a determined athlete and one who enjoys what he/she is doing. But if you are lazy and don’t have dedication to what he is doing, nothing will come out of it.)
Achievements and Best Times
- 15 SEA Games Gold Medals
- 8 SEA Games Titles in the Long Jump
- Youngest ever Track and Field entry in the SEA Games at 14 years of age.
- 100m – 11.67et +1.3 (Silver SEA Games) Manila 1991.
- 11.60et +2.4 National Open Lingayen 1997
- 200m -24.00et -0.6 (Gold SEA Games) Chiangmai 1995
- 400m 56.0(ht) Baguio City 1989
- 100mH -13.66et +1.3 (Gold) Manila 1991 (this mark was the Filipino Record for 16 years until it was broken by Sheena Atilano in 2007).
- 13.50et +3.6 (Gold Arafura Games) Australia 1991 (this is the fastest ever wind-aided performance by a Filipina or Fil-Heritage athlete)
- Long Jump -6.56m National Open 1997 (this record was tied in 2004 by Lerma Buluitan-Gabito, and after that broken by Marestella Torres)
- 400mH – 57.57et (Gold) Singapore 1991 (Still the Philippine Record for 21 years)
- Elma Muros 5346 Heptathlon 1998 Asian Games Bangkok (this record is still the national record)
- National Junior Record Womens Long Jump
- National Junior Record 4×400
http://pinoymiler.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/conversations-with-coach-jojo/ (Pinoy Miler’s Interview with Coach Jojo with background on Elma Muros)