Arianne Cerdena-Valdez: From Olympic hero to COVID-19 frontliner

Arianne Cerdena-Valdez: From Olympic hero to COVID-19 frontliner

MANILA, Philippines – How does one reinvent one’s self?

For bowling star and Olympic gold medalist Arianne Cerdena-Valdez, her second act aside from being a wife and mother is to reinvent herself as a nurse — a COVID-19 frontliner to be exact.

For much of her life, Cerdena-Valdez was in the bowling lane. She most famously won a gold medal in bowling during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea (although bowling was a demonstration sport then). That was the cherry on the cake with the cream decorated with medals in the World Championships, World Games, Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games.

And the 2001 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was Cerdena-Valdez’s swan song as the player won the gold in doubles competition with Lisa del Rosario.

“My husband, Raymond, has been living in the States since 1988, and what I do during the break when there is no training is I visit him once or twice a year. My daughter, Ashley Lauren, was growing up and it was about time for me to retire,” said Arianne. “So after the 2001 SEA Games, I retired and moved to the United States.”

Like her husband, Arianne took up dentistry at Centro Escolar University. When she arrived in Los Angeles, she asked herself wat she wanted to do.

“I decided to go back to school and take up nursing,” she shared.

Today, Arianne, is a registered nurse, along with her husband and her daughter. And all three are COVID-19 frontliners.

Arianne herself works at the California Medical Center Medical Surgery Unit.

“When we started last year, there was a shortage of PPEs and we were buying out of our pockets,” she shared. “The infected numbers went down and then up at the end of the year. Yan ang traumatic for me. Mas matindi yung second wave ng infections sa LA because of people going out during Thanksgiving and the riots (after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police).”

“More than half of our patients are Covid patients. And they declared LA as a place of emergency. A part of our unit was converted into a ICU and I could see our patients dying,” she recalled.

The days and nights have been long, but Arianne like everyone other healthcare specialist goes back to the trenches on a daily basis.

“We have no choice,” Arianne divulged. “We have to learn to deal with it. That is what I learned from bowling too. Kailangan malakas ang loob mo.”

Despite the difficulty, everyone at the hospital where she works — from doctors and nurses to the patients — know there is an Olympic gold medalist in their midst and working the frontlines.

“I was interviewed by Steve Angeles of Balitang Pinoy and the nurse director learned about it and he shared it to everyone so now they know,” laughed Arianne.

Since she retired from the sport, Arianne Cerdena-Valdez has not picked up a bowling all. Not even for recreational play.

“Every time I see Bong Coo (her former teammate), she would tell me bowl tayo ulit and join the seniors tour. I would say practice tayo. My husband would say, ‘Oo ka ng oo pero tamad mag practice.’It isn’t that I am lazy but it is more because I am tired. All that hospital work leaves me too tired.”

But that’s all right. After all, this future Philippine Sports Hall-of-Famer (who will be inducted this March of 2021), is fighting for something bigger.

“I like doing things for people. And there is life after bowling. You can recreate yourself.”

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