Whether we count the gold medals or reckon our place in the overall rankings in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur (August 19 to 30), the country has much work to do in the development and management of national sports.
An exhaustive review and evaluation of the performance of Team Philippines is imperative because in two years’ time, the country will be the host of the 2019 SEA Games.
The unavoidable and necessary questions must be asked and answered:
What happened to Team Philippines in Kuala Lumpur?
Why did our athletes fall to sixth place?
How does Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., president forever of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), which is nominally in charge of PH representation, explain this debacle?
What has the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), our premier sports agency and chief sports financier, have to say?
Before the games began on August 19, the chief of mission of Team Philippines predicted that the team would bring home at least 50 gold medals, perhaps even as many as 63.
By the time the competition closed on August 30, the country’s actual haul was only 24 gold medals – good for sixth place in the biennial competition.
Alarmingly, Team PH could not even match its output two years ago in Singapore, winning 29 golds in 2015; or the output four years ago in Napyidaw, where it won 29 golds.
This is regression, not progress. With the 24-gold tally, Team PH recorded its smallest medal haul since the 1999 SEA Games in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.
More shocking and depressing is the fact that in 2005, when the country last hosted the SEA Games, Team PH finished with 113 gold medals, enough to garner overall first place in the competition.
Beyond lamenting the descent of PH sports to the lower depths, we submit that this is the time to aggressively gather our energies for the comprehensive revival and rejuvenation of national sports.
Realistically, that cannot happen if Peping Cojuangco and the POC remain in nominal charge of the direction and priorities of national sports.
The problem, let us squarely face it, is systemic. Our sports system is in urgent need of a major overhaul. As it stands now, and with present leadership, the system is not built for competition but for surrender.
If he were honest, Cojuangco would point the finger at himself and the POC’s overstaying officials for the long and sorrowful descent of Philippine sports, and they would all honorably resign their posts?
With their collective exit, the game of sports revival and rejuvenation can begin in earnest. And the country will have a sporting chance of placing first in the 2019 SEA Games.