IF THERE is “tuwid na daan” in the country, it should be in Philippine sports.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Jose Cojuangco Jr. told The Manila Times corruption in Philippine sports has been slowly stamped out since he became POC president in 2005.
“Most national sport associations are also making their own solutions to fight corruption,” the former Tarlac lawmaker said.
He added that the local Olympic body is assigned by the International Olympic Committee to arbitrate and decide if ever there is any leadership disputes among leaders of National Sports Associations (NSA). The POC has the final say in any disputes and complaints.
Based on records, since 2005, the POC under Cojuangco’s leadership has resolved leadership crisis in swimming, billiards, basketball, table tennis, wushu, and shooting.
“There is more politics in sports than there is politics in the world,” he said.
Although NSAs are autonomous, the POC chief explained that there is a big difference between being autonomous and being independent.
“It’s hard to become an arbitrator but POC needs to do that job if needed,” he said. “We are doing our best to solve leadership problems and doing the best solution to unite sports stakeholders for the best interest of their sports.”
The POC is also required to intervene within any NSAs if national pride is at stake.
“We just can’t allow any sports association to carry the name of our country most of the time and then lose by a mile from their foreign counterparts,” the former lawmaker said, referring to the disbanded Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP).
The BAP was kicked out as member of the POC after putting the country in bad light in 2005. The Samahan ng Basketbol ng Pilipinas headed by Manny V. Pangilinan replaced BAP as the official NSA for basketball in the country.
Strength and conditioning
Cojuangco Jr. said that great strength and conditioning and effective long sports programs from all NSAs will realize the Philippines’ dream of winning its very first gold medal in the Olympics.
He said that the NSAs themselves are responsible for the future of their sports and their own respective athletes. He said that the POC is only there to guide them being the “mother organization” under the sanction of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Cojuangco emphasized the importance of strength and conditioning to boost the athletes’ strength during actual competition. The NSAs, he said, should implement their own ways of tapping their respective strength and conditioning coaches.
“Every NSA must know the correct training and mental conditioning to get a better result. That’s what we need to solve our problem in the Olympics. We also need to know the proper supplements for respective athletes,” he said.
The POC recently hired Australian coach Rick Martin to oversee the conditioning of 300 national athletes from different NSAs. Martin is also scheduled to hold a seminar for Filipino conditioning coaches.
“Blood testing will also determine what the athletes need in their body,” added Cojuangco Jr. “All Olympic powerhouse countries like Japan, Korea, China, Russia and the United States are doing the same thing on their athletes.”
Since the 2000 Sydney Olympics when the POC was under the leadership of Celso Dayrit, the Philippines has not won a single medal.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the country won a gold medal in wushu courtesy of Willy Wang. However, the medal was not counted in the official tally since wushu was considered as demonstration sports only.
Wang’s gold medal was the second Olympic gold for the Philippines after Arianne Cerdena won in bowling in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Her gold was also not counted in the Olympics official medal tally since bowling was also played as a demonstration sport during that time.
For Cojuangco Jr., winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal needs a lot of sacrifices, planning and hard work. So far, one of the long-term plans by the POC is the creation of a new huge sports complex facility somewhere in Clark, Pampanga to house and train all national athletes.
“I’m pushing right now for the sale of the old Rizal Memorial Sports Complex and some of the proceeds will go to the construction of the new site suitable for our Filipino athletes, where there are less distractions and more fresh air,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 priority right now.”
The other plan, according to Cojuangco Jr., is choosing the priority sports where Filipinos have a strong chance of winning an Olympic gold medal. Boxing, tae kwon do, shooting, archery and weightlifting, among others, are among the recent priority sports chosen by the POC.
“Different national sport associations are working very hard to qualify in the Olympics and when they do, they are now thinking how to win the gold. They have their own respective programs and plans, so the POC is only there to support their programs,” he said.
Boxing remains to be the sport where Filipinos have the highest chance of winning an Olympic gold. Of the nine medals won in the Olympics, five are from boxing—Jose Villanueva won bronze in the1932 Los Angeles Games, Anthony Villanueva won silver in 1964 in Tokyo, Leopoldo Serrantes won bronze in 1988 in Seoul, Roel Velasco won bronze in 1992 in Barcelona and Mansueto Velasco won silver in 1996 in Atlanta.
While most powerhouse Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea as well as
European, Australian and American countries are dominating various Olympic sports, the Philippines is still considered on a developmental stage.
The difference in sports technology, training programs, diet and conditioning plays an important role for those Olympic powerhouse countries.
“Some national sport associations can afford to hire foreign coaches to train their athletes.
For those who can’t afford, the Philippine Sports Commission headed by Richie Garcia is willing to finance their foreign coach if ever he or she will be approved,” said Cojuangco Jr.
“I do not like foreign coaches to stay here for too long. Maybe six months is good enough. I
think we need a coach who is an expert in one aspect like a defensive and offensive coach.
A coach who is effective for team, doubles or individual event of such sports,” he said.
Asked if the POC and NSAs are focusing on developing the right sports suited to Filipino physique and psyche, Cojuangco Jr. said: “There is no such thing. Maybe there are sports we are not suited for but there are that we can be a world caliber.”
“In basketball, there are great small players in different parts of the world that excel in that team sport. So how about in baseball, volleyball and football? If there is a proper conditioning and training program, I’m confident we could become No. 1 in those sports.”