(First of two parts)
This article is about Graham Lim.
I can truly say by God’s grace and with the approval of swimming lawyer Maria Luz Arzaga-Mendoza, that it is not an overstatement to describe Graham Lim as Federation of School Sports Association of the Philippines’ (FESSAP) “man of the hour.”
A dear friend, Elizabeth Celis, introduced me to Graham Lim, then the head of the Basketball Association of the Philippines, in 2011.
According to Graham, he has been reading about Philippine Swimming League (PSL) and he admired how it sustains its grassroots development program even without the support of government and big sponsors.
A few meetings with Graham took place and the rest is history.
Graham narrated how he was oppressed and betrayed by many people, even friends, which I will tackle in this article.
Unknown to many, Graham is the core, the heart and soul of FESSAP – an affiliated association to Federation of International Sports University (FISU).
Graham told me that FESSAP is a member of FISU, which is the organizer of the World University Games otherwise known as Universiade. It’s good news to me, the PSL family and to local swimmers.
I am very familiar with the World University Games because swimmers ahead of me like Josephine Brown, Serafin Villarete, Luis Nolasco and I even recall my sister Sonia Papa was also a candidate then in the Tokyo Universiade in the 1960s.
I was so impressed how Graham worked to make FESSAP a member of the FISU, the organization behind Universiade where 10,000 university students from 180 countries compete.
Graham granted FESSAP accreditation to PSL. He said that was happy to that he chose PSL to handle the selection process of swimmers that will compete in the 2011 Universiade in Shenzhen, China. As host of the National Students Championship, it is obligated to participate in the International University Competition, thus making PSL a National Sports Association (NSA) for swimming (under FESSAP).
Graham knew that it would be difficult because he is aware that the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA), now Philippine Swimming, Inc. (PSi) under the leadership of Mark Joseph could manipulate the Rule of Unauthorized Relation.
He is worried that swimmers will be stopped from joining the Universiade.
PSi is the NSA for swimming recognized by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), both are private organizations.
But thanks to the University of the Philippines varsity team and the efforts of its head coaches Noel Rivera and Bernie Cavida, and one of its finest swimmers Ma. Claire Adorna.
Being with FESSAP and FISU, PSL brought more than a dozen athletes to the 2011 Universiade in Shenzhen – an Olympic-like event for college students where the likes of Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, Yao Mina came from. It was the first time that the Philippines is sending athletes through FESSAP in that international multi-sporting event held every two years.
The PSL Chairperson and former Senator Nikki Coseteng, President-CEO of Diliman Preparatory School (DPS) has been designated as team manager of the Philippine swimming team. Also present then were Lim, FESSAP President David Ong and Philippine Delegation head Alvin Tailian.
With the success of the Philippines’ campaign in Universiade, many started to notice the existence of FESSAP through Lim’s hard work.
Through PSL’s dedicated effort to promote University Sports in the Philippines and tremendous support to the Philippine delegation in the 2011 Universiade, FESSAP declared PSL as its official NSA for swimming.
The prospect of competing in the Universiade became a motivation for Philippine swimmers 17 to 28 years old.
More swimmers joined the PSL as there is no membership fee and tryout is open to all who are interested to join.
TV, newspaper and social media covered the PSL and FESSAP works.
As FESSAP became eminently visible, some troubles begin.
It has come to the point that University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) prohibited its athletes to participate in any FESSAP events.
Both Graham and the PSL felt the pressure, harassment and oppression.
Trusting in God’s power, Graham, the PSL family and many friends used prayer as a weapon.
We cannot determine who were our secret enemies then and during those times, some big names in sports were up against Graham.
More prayers and lawyer Maria Luz Arzaga-Mendoza came to the aid of Graham Lim.