Hidilyn Diaz: No grassroots girl

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

ROMY P. MARIÑAS

Many who come onboard a new administration are prone to telling the people—as if they are candidates for Miss Congeniality—that, aside from promoting world peace and ending poverty, they, sports authorities in particular, will also make the Philippines win its first-ever Olympic gold medal.

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No, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez has not exactly declared that he will cast away the curse that has hounded the country since joining the quadrennial event almost a century ago.

What he noted recently was that the Philippines has been struggling to keep up with the rest of the world in regional and international competitions.

Ramirez, from Duterte country, cited the country’s lack of a genuine grassroots program that will produce athletes who would not place 8th and last in a 100-meter sprint heat or would get disqualified for making one false start too many in swimming preliminaries.

“That [poor performance in the Olympic Games or the Tier 3 Southeast Asian Games or SEA Games]is because the grassroots program we know in the past is only lip service,” he was quoted as saying in a newspaper report.

Well, in the not so distant past—or from 2000 when he was appointed PSC commissioner under the Estrada administration until 2005 when he was named the commission’s chairman under the Arroyo administration – he was part of those behind such program, even if it was unimplemented.

To be fair, the Philippines won the “overall” title in the SEA Games in 2005, and so perhaps Ramirez was just being modest or, on the other hand, being proud more than he should be that, despite a supposedly paper grassroots program, he was still able to make the country “No. 1” in the regional biennial meet.

If we are to believe Ramirez, his return to the PSC would augur well, very well, for Philippine sports but he has only until 2022 to revive, reinvigorate or whatever track and field, swimming, gymnastics or whatever it is that needs a big, big push in the hope that a presumed living and real grassroots program under his leadership would enable the country to win in real competitions, the Olympic Games being the one that matters most.

The PSC chairman should be reminded that Manny Pacquiao is not a product of the Palarong Pambansa, presumably the closest thing to what a grassroots program should be.

Neither is Hidilyn Diaz, the silver medal winner in women’s weightlifting (53 kg) in the ongoing Rio Olympics and the first Filipino woman to win a medal of any color in the modern-day Olympiad that dates back to 776 B.C.

As far as we know, women’s weightlifting has never been a part of the Palarong Pambansa or any past grassroots programs.

But Ramirez has to start somewhere, unless of course he wants to deliver on his promise, as quoted by Freeman News Service: “I won’t hesitate to lose my job by December [2016] if I’m not setting a straight direction for the betterment of Philippine sports.”

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