October 04, 2023

New face of PH swimming? SEA Games gold medalist Teia Salvino is breaking records at 17

New face of PH swimming? SEA Games gold medalist Teia Salvino is breaking records at 17
Art by Royce Nicdao

On Tuesday, in the women’s 100m backstroke event of the Southeast Games in Cambodia, somebody torpedoed her way across the Aquatics Center of the Morodok Techo National Stadium, and introduced herself as the new star of Philippine swimming.

Her name is Teia Salvino. She is just 17 years old.

Debuting for the Philippine team, the teen sensation captured the 100m backstroke gold medal in historic fashion. Finishing at 1:01:64, Salvino broke both the Philippine and SEA Games records.

The previous biennial meet record for women’s 100m backstroke was 1:01.89, set by Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Anh Vien in 2017. Meanwhile, the old Philippine record belonged to Chloe Isleta who clocked in 1:02.70 at the ASEAN University Games last year.

“I totally am [in shock]. I’m just super grateful. Honestly, I started crying after my race. I was just overwhelmed by emotions, happy emotions, of course. I’m very happy to win a gold medal for the Philippines,” Salvino told One Sports' Cesca Litton-Kalaw.

The youngster’s record-breaking outing in Phnom Penh is impressive, but what really makes it special is how she rose to the occasion in just her international stage debut.

Yes, she won gold and etched her name in the record books in her first try racing against other national athletes.

“It’s my first gold medal. And it’s my first international meet. It’s all so surreal. I can’t find the words.” said the University of Alabama-bound swimmer.

Salvino, who's currently a junior high school student at the Santa Margarita Catholic School in California, seemed ready for the bright lights. Going into the regional event, her concern was the possibility of experiencing jet lag. Butterflies in the stomach? Not a thing. In fact, she was raring to get into the water to compete.

“Honestly, my biggest worry was jetlag. I got in here early and I just took it day by day. And I was honestly very excited for today. So, I’m happy that it ended up this way,” she said.

Teia has what it takes to become the face of Philippine water sports. She’s got the drive. She’s got the skills. We imagine that her movie-star looks would also help. And she’s just 17. Her future as a national athlete is way brighter than the shiny gold medal she had just won.

(With reports from Cesca Litton-Kalaw, One Sports)