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The Philippines' Bunagan: 'I Am Happy To Join The Mix'
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Although Corinne Bunagan of the Philippines is just launching her international career, she told IG she she hopes her success thus far will motivate fellow Filipinos on their own gymnastics ventures.

“I want to inspire other young Filipino gymnasts to reach for the stars,” said Bunagan, who placed 12th all-around at the Asian Games in Jakarta last month. “They can pursue and achieve their dreams just like I am.”

Born October 15, 2002, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Bunagan was entitled to pursue Filipino citizenship because her father is Filipino. She placed second all-around and tied for first on balance beam in the Junior C age division at last year’s U.S. Junior Olympic national championships.

Bunagan trains at Eastern National Academy of Gymnastics in Paramus, New Jersey. Her main coaches at ENA are Craig and Jen Zappa, with Lou Levine as the assistant coach. Craig coaches her on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise; Jen coaches her on balance beam. Levine, who traveled with her to the Asian Games, generally coaches with Craig but also does strength and conditioning.

In this IG Online interview, Bunagan comments on her performance in Jakarta, the origins of her opportunity to represent the Philippines and her future competitive agenda.

IG: How did you cope with the pressure and dynamics of the Asian Games, especially since it was your first major international competition?

CB: The Asian Games, being the biggest meet I've been to, was very stressful for me at first. However, my coaches had prepared me for everything that was to come. The training days leading up to the meet helped me regain my rhythm, and on competition day I followed my usual routine and treated the meet like any other. I didn't let myself dwell on the pressure put on me and instead tried to focus on the job at hand. When the time came to compete, I relied on my training and the months of preparation behind me. All that was left was for me to enjoy the experience and being up on stage.

IG: What motivated you to pursue competing for the Philippines?

CB: I came to the decision to represent the Philippines about a year ago when I found out that this opportunity was available to me. Because my dad was born in the Philippines, I was able to get naturalized into my citizenship. I ultimately decided that the Philippines was the country I wanted to represent because of the many opportunities it provided me with. Being on their national team has already allowed me to compete internationally and now, go to a world-scale competition.

IG: What is your Filipino lineage?

CB: My grandparents on my dad's side, Lolo and Lola, were born and lived in the Philippines for many years. They went to college, got married and had my dad while still living there. My grandparents moved to America when my dad was about 3 and have lived here ever since. However, many of my cousins and the majority of my extended family still live in the Philippines today. My mom is not a Filipina.

IG: You did not have a full team to support you at the Asian Games, so how did you manage the responsibility of well representing the Philippines as an individual?

CB: Going into Jakarta, I was under the impression that I was competing alone. I didn't realize that I actually had a teammate, Christina Onofre, and was super excited when I found out. Tina has been like a big sister to me and made the trip much less stressful. She was so supportive and by far the loudest cheerer in the crowd. Because of all the love and support I received, even from the other countries, I didn't feel the pressure being put on me individually. I was able to focus on the job at hand and enjoy the experience. Because this was my first time competing for the Philippines, I went into to this meet with the expectations of doing my very best, relying on my training and leaving the results up to God.

IG: What are your plans for the rest of the Olympic cycle and beyond?

CB: I recently committed to the University of Alabama for the class of 2021. Since I'm only a sophomore in high school, I plan to keep competing for the Philippines until I graduate. Between now and then are a couple of big meets including the South East Asian Games, world competitions and the Olympics, which are all competitions I would love to attend given that I obtain the qualifying scores. I will probably be competing in other meets also, to gain more competition time and experience. By the time I graduate high school, I will hopefully be able to spend my last couple years of gymnastics enjoying college competition and exploring opportunities outside of the gym.

IG: In recent years the Philippines team has gained ground through the success of individuals such as 2014 Youth Olympian Ava Verdeflor and 2017 South East Asian Games uneven bars champion Kaitlin De Guzman. What do you see as your potential contribution to the program’s ongoing progress?

CB: I think that I can contribute new blood and competition to the Filipino gymnastics organization.They only have a couple of seniors right now and I am happy to be able to join the mix. I am also generally an all-around gymnast, and I believe I can contribute some strong events and skills into their arsenal. Training at one of the best gyms in the area has given me tons of competition experience and also some of the greatest coaches to help me though my journey. I also have the benefit of tough competition in America to help prepare for international meets. I want to inspire other young Filipino gymnasts to reach for the stars. They can pursue and achieve their dreams just like I am.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Bunagan get to the 2018 World Championships.

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