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Glowing goldies



SISTERS Bambi (right) and Bien Zoleta capture the gold medal in the soft tennis women’s doubles event of the 30th SEA Games.    BOB DUNGO JR. @tribunephl_bob

In team sports, nothing beats familiarity.

That’s what sisters Bambi and Bien Zoleta used to their advantage when they copped the gold medal in the soft tennis women’s doubles event of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games yesterday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.

The hard-fighting tandem cruised to an easy 5-0 win over Sawitre Naree and Natchatjira Kerdsomboon of Thailand to underscore their dominance in this prestigious biennial meet.

Actually, it was double happiness for Bien as she copped her second straight gold medal less than 24 hours after winning the mint in the women’s singles event.

She prevailed over Anadeleyda Kawengian of Indonesia, 4-2, to make history by bagging the first-ever medal of the Philippine Soft Tennis Association headed by Philippine Olympic Committee second vice-president Jeffrey Tamayo.

Still, nothing is sweeter than winning the mint with her younger sister.

“I think our biggest advantage is that we know each other very well,” said the 27-year-old Bambi following their stunning win witnessed by the members of their family, who took a four-hour drive from Lucena City to witness their coronation as queens of Southeast Asian soft tennis.

“We compliment each other. She provided the strength to my weakness and I provided the strength to her weakness. We are a perfect pair.”

Coming from a family of netters, transitioning from lawn tennis to soft tennis was a breeze for the Zoleta sisters.

Bien played the sport first before Bambi got in, patiently studying all the complexities of the game using their mastery of lawn tennis, which they played as campaigners in various age-group tournaments.

“Actually, I was just included in the team only this year. But it was Bien who taught me all the techniques that she learned from the time she learned the sport,” said Bambi, who also works as a receptionist at a well-known hotel in Taguig City.

While Bien plays with more precision and accuracy using soft tennis skills like placing, jump shots and slices, Bambi provides the offensive muscles as she has a penchant for unleashing power hits and long balls.

And those traits were enough to overcome the pair from Thailand.

“We fill the void that the other couldn’t provide. Since we’re sisters, we trust each other and that’s the biggest factor in this victory,” said the 30-year-old Bien.

“All I can say is that we’re a perfect combination — inside and outside the court.”

With the SEA Games gold safely hanging on their necks, they are setting their sights on the Asian Championships next year.

“We will defend our bronze medal in the Asian Championship next year,” she said. “And from thre, let’s see what happens. The possibilities are endless.”