A handicapped athlete's dream for a world title

(The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2013 - 5:32pm

MANILA, Philippines - University of the Philippines (UP) student and memory athlete Mary Sharmaine Dianquinay not only suffers from psoriasis but also from a false report that declared her a women's champion in a recent memory championship she joined.

Dianquinay, part of the Philippines' national memory team, was "very disappointed and devastated" at the false news story that caused Memory Games administration to accuse her of cheating, her mother Marissa said.

But such a handicap and adversities have not succeeded in trumping her pursuit to become the first female Filipino to be named Grand Master of Memory.

"Medyo okay na siya ngayon. Kung noon pagdating namin (na) halos hindi lumalabas ng bahay dahil sa hiya, ngayon nakapamamasyal na at sinabi pa nga sa amin ... na itutuloy niya ang pangarap niyang maging first Filipina to earn the title of Grand Master of Memory," the Dianquinay matriarch said in a report.

Neither did psoriasis, an incurable immune disease that makes the skin flaky, dashed Dianquinay's hopes for excellence. She finished high school as a valedictorian at Angelicum College and was admitted into UP's Manila campus as a scholar under the Speech Pathology program.

"Kahit na siya pinandidirihan iniiwasan na parang ketongin sa labas ng bahay, hindi na niya pinapansin," Mrs. Dianquinay said.

Dianquinay, listed in the Philippine Association for the Gifted, also turned to mental sports to prove that the mind is superior to any physical weakness one may have.

After competing in chess tournaments, Dianquinay was introduced to the game of memory in 2011, the year before she became part of the Philippine Memory Team with whom she bagged third and sixth places in open competitions in Thailand and Australia, respectively.

In Thailand, Dianquinay bested the Philippine record in the Random Word Event by memorizing 45 words in five minutes.

And just last March, she landed in the sixth place in the prestigious Welsh Open Memory Championships where she also broke her own record by memorizing 50 random words under 5 minutes.

Even with accomplishments earning her a distinction among peers in school and national athletes, Dianquinay also helps her family in operations of their Antipolo-based studio LNJ Pop Music and Academic Tutorial.

"Basta tuloy ang buhay niya at patuloy niyang hangad na mag-top sa mga bagay na kaya niya, maging sa sports, at maging responsible member of out society," her mother Marissa said.

Mark Anthony Castañeda was the country's first to earn the title of Grand Master in 2011, followed by Erwin Balines in 2012, after meeting the requirements of negotiating at least 1,000 random digits in an hour, the order of 10 decks of cards also in an hour and finally an order of one deck of cards under two minutes. - Camille Diola

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