Portrait of a Master: Catherine L. Chua-Matsuguma (PHI)

Masters

Catherine L. Chua-Matsuguma (PHI)

An elite, Chinese-trained diver in her youth, Catherine L. Chua-Matsuguma (PHI) guided herself back to the boards after starting a family and is now Honorary Member on the Philippine Diving Committee.

An aquatics athlete since infancy, Chua-Matsuguma (based in Oita, JPN) started Masters Diving around the year 2000, five years after she had retired from competition and moved to Japan where she married a military officer and started a family. When she retired from training however, she still maintained an active lifestyle by swimming at least twice a week.

“I would have loved to continue diving recreationally at that time”, she recalls, “but there weren’t any diving pools in the small town where we were stationed. I kept in touch with my old team mates in diving, who were by then coaches and administrators in the Philippine Diving Committee, and so I guess in my heart I was still yearning to have an active part in the world of diving”.

In 1999, after she had given birth to her first child, she set a personal goal of getting back into healthy shape; “at least fit enough to hurl off a springboard”, she adds. A year later, she dove as a Master in Florida (USA) while visiting her family, who had immigrated there. “Every summer since then”, she explains, “I looked forward not only to visiting my family, but also to diving in the US”.

Her diving was briefly interrupted again from 2002-03 when she gave birth to her second child, but by networking with other Masters she found her way back to a diving pool – this time in Japan (her family had by that time relocated to a bigger city where facilities were available). In 2006 she was contacted by the Philippine Diving Committee to become an Honorary Committee Member/Advisor. “We’ve been helping present and upcoming divers to find training facilities, coaches and programmes that would assist them in their competitive careers”, says Chua-Matsuguma.

Born into Aquatics

Chua-Matsuguma’s career in aquatics – especially diving - is unique. Coming from a family of swimmers, one might says she was born into it. “I started in aquatics as an infant swimming protégé of the legendary Philippine swimmer/coach Tuding Lozada*”, she recalls. “Born in 1973, I was only 8-9 months old at that time and I was one of the first subject to the then-revolutionary way of teaching babies how to swim by (literally) tossing them in the pool so that they learn to rely on their instincts and float. According to my parents and coaches, the programme worked because I never once felt scared of the water, and was a natural at floating on my back”. Swimming and aquatics has been a part of her life ever since, but at the time she also practiced gymnastics, which led to her eventual recruitment by the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA).

“I started diving in 1990, when I was recruited by PASA, which was looking for potential divers from gymnastics because they wanted to enter the first women’s diving team to compete in the 1991 Southeast Asian Games in Manila”. Those games, where she finished 7th in the 3m springboard, were her diving debut. She continued to train with the Philippine team until 1993, when she left for China to train in Fujian at the Xiamen Sports School. Disillusioned with the situation of amateur sports in the Philippines, which was hampered by politics, she stayed in China, ever-improving her diving, but able to represent neither the Philippines, nor the school she attended as a non-Chinese citizen. “I must say”, she says upon reflection, and despite the limitations this choice had on her career, “that was the time when I gained invaluable knowledge in diving, and the first time that I truly felt that I was diving because I simply loved the sport. I won a silver medal in a 1994 interschool competition within the sports schools in China”.

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Catherine L. Chua-Matsuguma (PHI)

In general, Chua-Matsuguma notes, her competitive inspiration stems from her family. “The people who have inspired me in life are my sisters. We are a family of nine siblings (five girls and four boys), and everyone is or was involved in swimming. Being the youngest girl, my sisters inspired me to be competitive in sports and in academics”.

Still a water-lover

Presently, Chua-Matsuguma still swims regularly, and dives whenever she visits the US. She does motivational speaking to clubs and groups, and regular volunteers to teach children. She has also passed on her love for sports to her children, explaining that she wants to inspire her daughter, who is in gymnastics, and her son, who swims, to be passionate about their chosen sports. “Sports are a part of our lifestyle”, she says. “What keeps me going in Masters is simply the love of the sport. It may sound like a cliché, but I just truly love water and the artistry in flight”. She expresses optimism about the future development of Masters diving because divers are devoted about their sport and driven to continue because it’s fun. “But in Asia the lack of diving pools is a big hindrance”, she adds.

“Keeping an active lifestyle”, she says of the benefits of Masters participation, “has not only improved my health, but also given me the positive energy to face everyday life. Being involved at the Masters level has kept me on my toes.”

*Gertrudes “Tuding” Lozada is a former Olympic and Asian Games swimmer. A freestyle specialist during her prime, Tuding saw action in the Asiad and the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Then barely 17, she was the youngest member of the Philippine team in the Melbourne Games.

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