West Orange High School senior water polo team wing/flat Gaby Tong recently was named West Orange Athlete of the Year.

Gaby Tong
Gaby Tong
Photo by Andrea Mujica
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West Orange High School senior water polo team wing/flat Gaby Tong recently was named West Orange Athlete of the Year. She finished her final season with the Warriors with 34 assists, 58 points and 43 steals. “It’s a huge honor,” Tong said of the award. “I was not expecting it at all, but it’s really special, because swimming and water polo are not known sports as much as football or baseball, so it’s really good to see that a (water polo athlete) got that recognition.”

Tell us about your years as a water polo player.
I’ve been a swimmer since I was 5 (years old). That’s what got me into water polo. I’ve done (swimming) for four years at West Orange, and then I just heard about water polo from a couple of my friends. (During my sophomore year), coach (Jennifer) Dailer saw me at a swim meet and said, “Hey, we could use you.” So I said, “I’ll try it.”

What do you love most about water polo as a sport?
Water polo showed me what being on a team is about. It was really hard for me at first, because the whole communication and working with other people, I had never done before. But I learned to love it, and it’s just nice to be able to celebrate things with the team. … And some of the pressure is taken off, because you do all of the things together. 

What do you believe water polo has taught you not only in the pool but also out of it? 
It’s taught me to adopt a leadership role and making sure everyone is leaving everything out of the water, and when you get in the pool, you are just focusing on the game. 

Do you have a favorite drill at practice? 
We have a game called “Pairs,” and you have a partner and you have to have one good pass. Then if you catch it, you can score. There (are) no rules … and then if you score, you are the goalie until the next pair scores.

How do you believe you instill leadership in your team? 
By being a mediator to everyone. I try so stay out of things and keep it chill and calm, and just try to put the team above everything else. Keep everything out of the water. 

What would you like to study in college? 
Biomedical sciences. I hope to work somewhere in the medical field; I’m not exactly sure where yet. 

Where would you like to go to college? 
University of Florida. 

What is your favorite aspect about being a part of your team? 
When you get out of the water, we all are really good friends.

What’s your favorite hobby? 
Hang(ing) out with my dogs — Kai, Tags, Coco —  and with my sisters — Vivy and Karyna. 

What do you like to do on the weekends? 
My mom loves antiquing — it’s not my favorite thing to do — but it’s something we do as a family. 

What are three things you would take with you to a deserted island? 
My dogs because I can’t live without them, a blanket and my sisters, because I feel they’d be pretty good about surviving. 

What’s your favorite movie? 
“Encanto.” I love that movie, I know every single song. My favorite message from it was that you don’t need powers or to be the best at everything to have worth.

What TV series are you watching right now? 
“Love is Blind.” It’s a thing with my sisters. We watch it together, and then we get together and talk about it. 

What are three places you’d like to visit? Why? 
China, because that’s where my grandparents are from and I’ve never seen that part of my culture. Somewhere snowy, like Alaska, and maybe New Zealand. 

If you could go back in time to a specific period of history, which one would it be and why?
I watch “Bridgerton,” and I love their dresses, so I would go back to the 1800s. Not to live there, but I just want to see their dresses and everything and the royalty. I think that’d be so cool. 

What color represents your personality? 
Pink. Even if I’m not happy all the time, it makes me appreciate happiness. 

If you could be an animal for a day, which one would you be and why?
A dolphin, so I can swim in the ocean — I love swimming, obviously — and I just love to feel the water. When I get in the water, it’s so serene, and it blacks out everything, and it’s just me in the water.



Andrea Mujica

Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.

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