The former beauty queen is poised to pave the way for Filipinos in her sport.
Filipino athlete Kimberly Anne Custodio just brought home a gold medal representing the Philippines at the 2022 Jiu-Jitsu International Federation World Championship in Abu Dhabi on November 2. Custodio beat Thailand’s pro-athlete Kacie Pechrada Tan in the final round of the 45-kilogram division.
After a thrilling match, the Iloilo native burst into tears after securing gold and ran to her teammates. Custodio’s win adds to her already impressive list of accomplishments within the sport.
Though these days, she’s nicknamed the “armbar queen” by her peers, Custodio was actually on a different path almost two decades ago as a pageant contestant. The aspiring beauty queen was crowned Miss Iloilo Dinagyang in 2004.
The former pageant winner only discovered Jiu-Jitsu in 2014. Despite a later start to the sport than most, she earned herself a silver medal in the 2016 Jui-Jitsu Federation World Championship held in Long Beach, California, and gold and bronze medals at the 2017 and 2018 San Diego Spring International Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship, respectively.
Custodio is a product of Modern Day Samurai or MDS, where she now works as one of their coaches. Her fellow jiujiteiro and chapter head of MDS Iloilo Sim Griño had only pride and praises to say.
“It is very emotional for all of us and she really deserves this. She has sacrificed so much and endured a lot of hardships to reach this achievement,” Griño tells Vogue Philippines. “Despite only being a purple belt in a sea of brown and black belts, she has overcome the impossible and brought home the gold. She has become a source of pride here in Iloilo. She is living proof that our small academy in Iloilo can create a global impact.”
Like many sports in the Philippines, and, likely, most of the world, Jiu-Jitsu is male-dominated. However, Filipina athletes in many fields have been making great strides over the past few years to change that notion.
In 2019, Meggie Ochoa became brought home the first Philippine gold at the 4th Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championships in Mongolia, after securing the country’s first gold at the 2018 Jiu-Jitsu World Championships in Ulaanbaatar. Apart from martial arts, tennis phenom and three-time Junior Grand Slam winner Alex Eala has quickly risen to global ranks.
Weightlifting star Hidilyn Diaz claimed the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines. Mountain climber Carina Dayondon became the first Filipina to climb the tallest peaks of each continent, and the second Filipina to ever scale Mount Everest.
Kimberly Anne Custodio joins their ranks as a force to be reckoned with, and one to watch.