Rhea Bullos, a track athlete in the Philippines, won three gold medals after competing in makeshift "sneakers" featuring a hand-drawn Nike swoosh.

By Arielle Tschinkel
December 13, 2019

Rhea Bullos, an 11-year-old track athlete from the Philippines, has gone viral this week after competing in a local inter-school running meet. Bullos won three gold medals in the 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1,500-meter competitions at the Iloilo Schools Sports Council Meet on December 9, according to CBS Sports. She's not just making the internet rounds because of her triumphs on the track, though. Bullos earned her medals while running in homemade "sneakers" made only of plaster bandages, as seen in a series of photos shared on Facebook by her trainer, Predirick Valenzuela.

The young athlete beat her competition—many of whom were in athletic sneakers (though some also wore similar makeshift shoes)—after running in shoes made of bandages that had been taped around her ankles, toes, and the tops of her feet. Bullos even drew a Nike swoosh on the top of her foot, along with the athletic brand's namesake on the bandages lining her ankles.

People from around the globe took to Valenzuela's Facebook post to cheer Bullos on. "This is by far the best thing I have seen today! This girl is truly an inspiration and has definitely warmed my heart. From the look of it she was unable to afford runners but she turned it into a positive and won!! Go girl," wrote one person. (Related: 11 Talented Young Athletes Dominating the Sports World)

Several others shared the story on Twitter, tagging Nike to request that the brand send Bullos and her fellow runners some athletic gear for their next race. "Someone start a petition to Nike for ALL 3 of these girls (her+her 2 friends that did the same thing) to receive a lifetime of free Nikes for them and their families," tweeted one person.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Bullos' trainer expressed his pride in the athlete. "I'm glad she won. She worked hard to train. They only get tired when training because they don't have shoes," Valenzuela told the news outlet of Bullos and her teammates. (Related: Serena Williams Launched a Mentorship Program for Young Athletes On Instagram)

Shortly after the story picked up steam, Jeff Cariaso, CEO of the basketball store, Titan22 and head coach of the Alaska Aces (a professional basketball team in the Philippine Basketball Association), took to Twitter to ask for help in contacting Bullos. Sure enough, Joshua Enriquez, a man who said he knows Bullos and her team, connected with Cariaso and helped them contact one another.

In case your heart hasn't already exploded over this story, it seems Bullos has already scored some new gear. Earlier this week, The Daily Guardian, a tabloid newspaper in the Philippines, tweeted photos of Bullos at a shoe store in a local mall, trying on some brand new kicks (apparently she also scored some socks and a sports bag).

No word yet on whether Bullos has tested her new sneakers on the track. But it seems she'll have plenty of support from both her shoes and her many fans around the world when she's ready to hit the pavement next.

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