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Sports Idol: Aljon Salonga

Champion Aljon Salonga talks about what it’s really like to be a swimmer in a country where basketball is king, and opens up about his showbiz aspirations.

In a sea of swimming champs, Aljon Salonga is a standout. Not only does he possess a to-die-for bod, he’s also quite a looker.

In a sea of swimming champs, Aljon Salonga is a standout. Not only does he possess a to-die-for bod, he’s also quite a looker. For someone who says he does not like swimming at all, as his first love was basketball, Aljon has grown by leaps and bounds, scaling greater heights in swimming compared to most of his contemporaries.

“I only started liking swimming in high school. My older brothers were swimmers too,” he said.

Aljon studied at the University of Santo Tomas where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts and Design, Major in Painting.

“I was supposed to take Communication Arts but they ran out of slots so I went with my second choice. I didn’t shift courses anymore because I found friends there and I wanted to graduate on time.”

Aljon’s 26 and is quite towering at 5’9” with a shoe size of 9. He is the third child in a brood of four, with two older brothers and a younger sister.

Growing up, Aljon learned swimming through his father who taught him how to swim when he was around eight years old and he taught him for about one summer. He learned all swimming styles in his young life. His idols in swimming are Adam Peaty and Joseph Schooling.

“Yes, I did all styles. Actually I can do all strokes, but my favorite is the breaststroke because I can swim it effortlessly, fast or slow. The most difficult is butterfly because it requires so much effort and undulation.”

Aside from swimming, Aljon also plays basketball and water polo. Joining his first swimming competition was a journey he relished.

“As far as I can remember, the first competition I ever joined was Milo for novice swimmers. I didn’t win, though,” he said laughing.

But that did not deter his determination to improve as later in life he joined the NCAA and UAAP competitions and “won a few medals in those competitions.”

So, how does he prepare for competitions? Are his preparations different or the same when it comes to local and international competitions?

“I train everyday, including holidays. I follow and trust what my coaches tell me to do. I also do extra workouts, get enough sleep, and eat healthy,” he shared.

And when he fails, Jon always move on from defeat and “pray more and tell myself to do better in training.”

Because he has been a swimmer since he was young, Jon was able to make his swimming team his buddies.

“Yes, they are my buddies. We usually bond during and after training by laughing at our own jokes.”

Yes, he believes that the Philippine Swimming team is given the right attention and funding.

That said, he also has some frustrations being a swimmer.

“Sometimes I have difficulty getting the target times in training. I just do my best to reach them by reminding myself why I am doing this and by reminding myself what my goals are.”

Years back, Akiko Thompson and Christine Jacob brought honors in the swimming department. Is it a correct observation that swimmers are not as popular now as they were before?

“I think that’s correct to a certain extent, given that swimmers nowadays don’t get as much recognition and exposure. But I believe it’s a good sport for everyone as it increases core and overall body strength. Swimming also helps develop resiliency and improves health, in the sense that it also strengthens the lungs. This is especially helpful to those who have asthma. Also, you’ll have the chance to meet people from different countries around the world.”

Even though he’s a champion swimmer, Aljon has certain fears. He also gets cramps from time to time.

“I’m scared of swimming alone in an ocean and I’m scared of sharks and other big fish in the sea,” he admitted. “Furthermore, sometimes, I get cramps when I haven’t been training well and swim in a competition without the right nutrition and preparation. Fortunately, I know the best way to address cramps, and that’s to stay relaxed, hydrate, and stretch until the muscle relaxes.”

He believes that when you fail, all you’ve got to do is to get up and try again.

“No matter how many times you get knocked down, you must always get back stronger and that giving up is not an option whether in sports or in life,” he said.

Although he’s lean and fit, Jon has never joined any body or bikini search before. He says he doesn’t see himself joining such competitions, but he has appeared in a few commercials for Revicon Forte, Pizza Hut, Petron and Cobra. He also admits that he wants to try showbiz.

“I haven’t tried it yet. I want to try it maybe soon or in the future because that’s one of my dreams. I really want to play a superhero in a blockbuster movie,” Aljon said. “Given the chance, I want to work with the leading actors of this generation like LizQuen and KathNiel.”

“They’re the couples I’ve been dreaming to work with and I think I’ll learn a lot from them. I’m also one of their fans. They act really well.”

Will this swimming champ really become a caped crusader on the silver screen? We hope he does. After all, he’s got it—the body and the X-factor.

BY ALEX BROSAS

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