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Zoleta sisters win together, lose together

Bien and Bambi Zoleta stay together through good times and bad. Photo courtesy of Bien Zoleta / Facebook

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Bambi Zoleta tried to be strong when she failed to win the gold medal in the soft tennis competition of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.

But when her older sister – Bien – came over to hug her, all the emotions that were quietly simmering underneath blew out, sparking the most heartwarming moment in the soft tennis competition of the biennial meet late Wednesday at the National Olympic Stadium here.

“I really tried to hold back the tears when we were still in the middle of the court,” the 31-year-old Bambi said following a tough 3-4, 4-7 loss to Dwi Rahayu Pitri of Indonesia in the gold medal match of the women’s singles event.

“But when she (Bien) came in to hug me, I finally broke down. Getting a hug from a family member, especially from your sister, is different. It is truly special.”

Bambi and Bien have been training and competing together since they were kids.

They studied elementary and high school at Maryhill College in Lucena City while actively campaigning in various age-group tennis tournaments.

Then, Bambi took up BS Hotel and Restaurant Management at College of Saint Benilde, the same school where her sister was studying AB Consular and Diplomatic Affairs.

When Bien was 17, she decided to try a new sport – soft tennis.

“When I was in tennis, I didn’t experience playing in various international competitions like the SEA Games, Asian Games and Worlds so I couldn’t consider myself as a national athlete,” the 34-year-old Bien said in an online exchange with Daily Tribune.

“That’s why when they asked me to play soft tennis, I agreed immediately. I know that in this sport, I will get a lot of opportunities.”

The switch paid off as Bien ruled the women’s singles event and the doubles event with Bambi when Manila hosted the SEA Games in 2019.

In the ongoing SEA Games, Bien joined Princess Catindig in winning the women’s doubles event before powering the group of Catindig, Bambi, Christy Sanosa, Fatima Amirul, and Virvienica Bejosano to rule the women’s team event.

But fate has a cruel script.

Against a seasoned international campaigner from Indonesia, Bambi crumbled to pressure and failed to defend the title that her sister won in Manila.

Bambi was crying when her sister wrapped her arms around her, saying to keep her head up because there will always be a next time.

After all, she will not go home emptyhanded as she has a gold and silver medal hanging around her neck.

“I’m proud of my team and to myself because I still have a medal. I will hold my head high with my silver and gold medals,” Bambi said.

Bien, however, stressed that her faith in her younger sister will not be defined by one loss.

“We know Bambi will strive for it. We were talking after the game and she’s already preparing for the next one,” Bien said, showing Bambi a sisterly love that is so gentle, so pure.

“She will make sure that she will be prepared and train hard for the next tournament.”

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