For the first time in three years, the Philippines will be represented in the biggest gymnastics competition of the year. New Jersey native Corinne Bunagan of ENA Paramus will compete at the 2018 World Championships in Doha next month. She received the opportunity after proving herself to be a reliable competitor at the 2018 Asian Games.
Bunagan is the latest athlete to continue the tradition of Filipino-American gymnasts competing for the Philippines. Former Mizzou student coach Hannah Finnegan, sister of LSU Tiger Sarah Finnegan, joined the Philippines at the 2011 SEA Games. In 2014, WOGA alum and Penn State gymnast Ava Verdeflor made her international debut for the Philippines at the Youth Olympic Games. Former Illini gymnast Lizzy LeDuc joined Verdeflor in competing for the Philippines at the 2015 SEA Games, where the Philippine women's team won bronze. In 2016, Verdeflor attempted to qualify to Rio for the Philippines at the test event after competing at her first Worlds in 2015. Last year, Kaitlin DeGuzman of Metroplex Gymnastics in Texas won multiple medals at the SEA Games while representing her parents' homeland.
According to the Manila Standard, it was DeGuzman who was slated to compete at last month's Asian Games. Unfortunately, DeGuzman is recovering from a hip injury, so the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines decided that was Bunagan's chance to show them what she's got.
Though the Asian Games were her first international meet, she fared well, even among several veteran gymnasts. She finished 12th in the all-around with a score of 48.950. Her best event was vault, where she earned a 13.250. Bunagan had the highest difficulty on uneven bars, where her 5.2 D-score combined with her 7.1 E-score for a respectable 12.300. She has the most room for improvement on beam, where she earned only an 11.300 with a 6.7 E-score. Her floor routine scored a 12.100 with a 4.6 D-score and 7.1 E-score.
Bunagan is currently the No. 1 gymnast in the Philippines and doesn't graduate until 2021, so she could be the future of the country's program, at least for this quadrennium. The next stop on her journey is Doha, but she'll need help getting there.
"Since Corinne represents the Philippines, they have little to no funding to support their athletes," her mom said on their GoFundMe page. "We are reaching out to all of you to help make her dreams possible."