WHEN rugby player Jenielyn Lou Saldo first dabbled into bodybuilding, she never saw herself winning five fitness competitions within a span of seven months in 2016.
She just wanted to recover from the effects of a right shoulder injury she suffered while playing for Philippine Lady Volcanoes Rugby 7s team way back in 2013.
At first, Lou felt reluctant to join such contests.
“I tried to find something to occupy my time. I tried joining a beauty pageant, Miss Makati. I wasn’t enamored. I was too much into sports. So I tried bodybuilding,” said Lou Jen as she reflected on her success the past year and the circumstances that led to her recent achievements.
Her turn towards bodybuilding came when the Lady Volcanoes Asian saw action in the Asian Women’s Sevens Series in Thailand in September, 2013.
She was with Charmaine Bolando, Tonette Gambito, Kaye Honoras, Luisa Jordan, Nikki Lira, Ada Milby, Astrid Sadaya, Madille Salinas, Acee San Juan, Sylvia Tudoc and Cassie Umali at that time.
This was the first time that she has been picked for the national team to compete in an international meet. It was in a game against Japan when her life would change.
Lou Jen was chasing a Japanese player across the field. During a tackle, she was kneed on the right shoulder, dislocating the joint.
That injury needed six months to heal. But, by November she was competing again. This time, in the Asian Women’s Sevens Series in India.
She didn’t get injured during her stint. But her movements were limited, and she felt slow. Lou Jen realized that she needed to build up speed on her legs.
Going to the gym for the first time with her coach Lou Paningbatan allowed her a chance to tone the muscles on her legs.
“I just focused on the legs. Lunges, squats, just exercises. They said I had the body. I just needed to tone my legs,” said Lou Jen.
After three months, Lou Jen did something she didn’t expect to do. She found herself in the Australasian Natural Bodybuilding International Universe 2016 at the Makati Cinema Square. There she won first place in the short and novice competition.
This encouraged her to go even further.
Already a winner in the Ms. CHK 2014, and Ms. UMak 2015, in her school, and in their community (Ms. Comembo 2015), she went on take the top honors at the Gemmalyn Crosby Sports Festival’s bikini bodybuilding division (short and overall champion) in September.
Then at the Shawn Rhodden Classic SRS 2016 she was 4th runner up. Finally at Slimmer’s World Great Bodies 2016, she took the Ms. True Tea Ice Tea, Ms. Swimwear and the Ms. Great Bodies 2016 crown.
Last November, Lou Jen claimed the crown in the Bodybuilding Bikini Division at Robinsons Parañaque.
Lou Jen said hard work won the day for her in these competitions.
Currently taking up Physical Education in at University of Makati, she hopes to make it to Mr. and Ms. Fitness Universe in Florida this June 2017.
Lou Jen, who also teaches kickboxing and Muay Thai as a part time job, has really gone a long way.
She was introduced to Rugby in college by her school’s PE instructors. A meeting with Philippine Volcanoes players like EricTay and Chris Everingham allowed her a chance to discover the beauty of the sport.
Since then, her need for speed, and her aggressiveness on the field was unleashed.
This even earned her a women’s MVP award while playing for the Manila Mayhem in a local tourney.
“I experienced being part of a team. I liked it and I persevered to become part of the Philippine team,” she said.
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