If “Kuya” Kim Atienza were a character in “Pokemon Go,” the mobile game that everyone and even grandparents are playing these days, he’d probably be the one with the most number of evolutions.
Did you know that he actually made his TV debut as a “fitness guru” 30 years ago? He was the aerobics instructor for a show called Muscles in Motion, which aired daily on Channel 9 in 1986. He was also a finalist at the 1990 Super Body of the Philippines.
From there, Kuya Kim has had a series of “evolutions”—from politician to weatherman, to Matanglawin the animal expert and noontime show host. The only thing that seems constant has been his passion for health.
After suffering a stroke in 2010 and contracting Guillain-Barre disease, a rare autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system in 2013, who would have thought that Kuya Kim’s next transformation would be from runner to triathlete.
We “caught” Kuya Kim two days before the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships presented by Ford in Cebu and we asked him how the multisport changed his life.
“You know I literally became an ‘IronMan’ even before I joined my first triathlon, because when I suffered a stroke my doctors had to place an occluder to fix the hole in my heart. It’s made of nitinol [an alloy of nickel and titanium] so I really have an “iron” inside my heart, he told Manila Standard.
“When I had a stroke, part of my therapy was to do brisk walking 30 minutes a day. The slow walk became a slow run and the slow run became a fast run,” he recalled. Six months after my stroke, I joined my first fun run organized by my neurologist and six months after that I was training for my first full marathon. I was hooked.
“In 2013, I thought I was at the peak of my health until I got hospitalized for Guillain-Barre disease. You know the motto of IronMan is ‘I Can,’ but for me I changed it to ‘God Can,’ because I couldn’t move my hands and feet and I realized that only God can give me the power so I shifted my paradigm to that. It was another turning point in my life and I got stronger and stronger knowing that the power is not from me but only given to me.”
“You know whenever I go to the hospital I feel happy, walang biro. Visiting the Makati Med brings back pleasant memories of the two times I got born again. The first time I was born again physically from my unhealthy lifestyle and the second time I was born again spiritually so I think I am complete.
“Exactly 6 years ago, I suffered a stroke. Since then, God has continued to bless me with super health, a loving beautiful family, good friends and the ability to join marathons and triathlons. It gets better every single year! God you are the grand weaver. ‘All things work out well for those who love you and obey your commands.’ I am so blessed, I am so thankful!” Kim Atienza posted on Instagram (@kuyakim_atienza) a few days after finishing the Cobra IronMan 70.3 Asia Pacific.
Another politician and TV host who became an IronMan is Gilbert Remulla. He and Kuya Kim are running buddies and eventually added swimming and biking to join their first triathlon.
“I started running when I got out of politics initially just to lose weight and get some exercise. I can’t play basketball anymore so I did running and joined a 5K run. I liked it and did a 10K, then 16K, followed by a 21K and I realized okay ‘to ah,” Remulla shared after joining our table after Kuya Kim. “I did 42K after about two years of running just on my own. I met Kim and I started to run with them, then he told me why not get a bike para makapag triathlon na tayo! So we did cycling and eventually signed up for our first triathlon. But our problem was we didn’t know how to swim 2 kilometers so we took swim(ming) lessons and after that I was hooked as well.”
“Doing a triathlon has been described as one long conversation with yourself and willing yourself to finish. That is how you get to become as strong as tempered steel. I’ve also met a new set of friends while training and is always a different feeling every time you cross the finish line.”
One of those friends Remulla met while training is actor Dingdong Dantes who was joining his first Cobra Ironman as the cyclist of their relay team. “I’m only joining the bike relay this year but I’ve seen the commitment of my Gotta teammates to the sport and you can see their character with the determination they’ve shown, which is something that I look up to.” Dingdong said he got more than just training tips during their sessions. “They also gave me tips as a new father,” he added.
Dingdong said his training for Ironman would temporarily take a backseat as he shifts his attention back to his TV and movie career, with a new series and a possible Metro Manila Film Festival entry. But he said he’d definitely resume the training sessions as he plans to compete in bike, swim and run events next year.
“I know this is a commitment for a change of lifestyle that I know I’ll enjoy while I still can. I want to finish strong, fit and happy,” he added.
Perhaps the youngest actor with the most IronMan experience is Cobra IronMan 70.3 posterboy himself Matteo Guidicelli.
Guidicelli comes from a family of racers and has become a veteran of the Cebu triathlon competing in his sixth IronMan race. But because of his hectic schedule, Matteo said his only goal was to finish this year and hopefully improve on his previous record.
“Taping for Dolce Amore ended just a few weeks before the race, so I didn’t really have much time to train. I only started training two weeks before the event so I want to break through my “mental barrier” and prove to myself that I can still finish the race.”
For Guidicelli triathlon has become more than just a sport for him “it’s a lifestyle.” The discipline and passion I got from kart racing are still there. But in triathlon your body is the motor and the engine. It’s one of those sports where you don’t have to stay at the gym with the air conditioner on. You literally have to go out to train.”
Other celebrities who joined this year’s competition were Boys Night Out DJ Sam YG, Paul Jake Castillo, Ivan Carapiet, Bubbles Paraiso, Gretchen Fullido, Anthony Pangilinan and daughters Hannah and Ella Pangilinan.
Wilfred Uytengsu whose Sunrise Events, Inc. is the official Philippine licensee and organizer of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships has competed in several IronMan races as well.
Seven years ago, Uytengsu brought the Ironman Triathlon fame to the Philippines and put the country to the global triathlon map.
“I believe that with a healthy lifestyle, healthy body, clear mind, you’ll have a lot more energy and a lot more endurance in all aspects of your life. I like doing it because I enjoy it and if bringing IronMan to the country will inspire and help others to adopt a healthy lifestyle then, well and good.”