SEA Games 2019 bronze medalist Maureen Schrijvers’ favorite story about her beginnings always starts like this: “I’ve been running since I was in first grade. I would always run in the quadrangle, and always come home with broken leather shoes from running against the boys. I always won.” It didn’t take long before she caught the eye of her school’s track and field coach at a sportsfest, and things only began to fall into place from there.
Things weren’t as idyllic as you’d expect it in her career, though. “In the beginning, my mom didn’t want me to do it. She used to say, ‘You’re going to turn into a boy, you can’t be a boy!’ But during my first competition, I won gold in five events. That’s when she realized that I was excelling at this sport, and that there wasn’t a good reason to take it away from me.”
From there, she was right on track to start a career in track and field, becoming, in her own words, “a high school phenom,” but college put her on an entirely different path instead. “It was supposed to be my peak year when I entered college, but I was constantly getting injured. I had to keep living up to the expectations everyone had for me, but I couldn’t do that. People were telling me that my career was over, that I wasn’t the best runner anymore, and I believed them. Eventually, I just gave up," said Mau, who went to the De La Salle University.
Mau took a break from track and field for two years at that point, choosing instead to pick up a surfboard and pass her days by the beach. That was, until the SEA Games caught her attention.
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“What’s a better comeback than to represent the country, and actually prove to everyone that I could still do it? At the time, I felt that it was a long-shot dream for someone who came from so many injuries, who didn’t win any university medals, who stopped for two years, that all of a sudden my goal was to get into the SEA Games, not even a national championship!” Mau says about how she felt when she heard about the SEA Games being held here.
Getting back into shape to qualify for the games was no challenge to her, except, “muscle-memory wise, I forgot how things worked. I always thought my body being sore was me being weak, but it was just my body getting used to what I hadn’t done for years. It was tough, but after six months, I was able to get back into the groove and regain my focus.”
There was, however, just as much work to do mentally for Mau. “I’ve been struggling to keep a positive mind. Through the years, all the negative things that people could say, every hurtful word you could hear from a person, I’ve heard already.” With the support of her coaches, Coach Gary Cablayan, “who has nothing negative to say about anyone,” and Coach Diego Lozano, her boyfriend who’s also “the positive link to all the negative thoughts in (her) head,” Mau managed to overcome near every hurdle that stood in her way, letting her qualify for the SEA Games and eventually win a medal for the 400-meter relay.
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“My biggest motivation was to prove everyone wrong. The same people that told me that I couldn’t do it were the same people that had to decide if I was the fastest or not, and at the end of the day, numbers won’t lie, and your performance won’t lie either. If you’re the best, you’re the best,” Mau says about her achievement.
Since then, however, Mau’s been trying to figure out if she should keep riding this wave or search for a new one. “I’m at this point in my life where I’m choosing between starting real adulthood, or pushing it to see how far I could go. I’m still deciding between continuing as a professional athlete, or if I’ll take another route still connected to sports. I don’t think I can juggle both. If I go into business or coaching, I’ll have to give my hundred. That’s the thing with me: I need to give my hundred percent. I know I haven’t reached my peak.”
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Produced by Camille Santiago | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Grooming by Muriel Vega Perez and Team MVP | Hair by Francis Guintu of Aveda Philippines | Styling by Aldrin Ramos | Shot on location at WeWork Philippines, Menarco Tower, BGC | Special thanks to Trix Catly, WeWork Philippines, Aveda, and Teriyaki Boy