Preparing for the next Olympics

Conrad M. Cariño

Conrad M. Cariño

(Part two)
One of the objectives of the annual Palarong Pambansa is to “widen the base for talent identification, selection, recruitment, training and exposure of elementary pupils and secondary students to serve as a feeder to the National Sports Association [NSA] for international competitions,” according to Wikipedia.

I wonder if you need an expert to say the Palaro is a good starting point for a grassroots sports training program, provided many disciplines are covered. But given the extensive media coverage given to the Palaro, you wonder if the country’s top sports officials (both private and government) prefer reading the showbiz pages of newspapers during its staging.

After identifying potential athletes for international competition, the next logical step for the Philippine Sports Commission is to mandate concerned NSAs to “adopt,” train and support top Palaro athletes to realize their potential for international medals. And this includes providing them not only expert training but also sufficient nutrition.

Sufficient nutrition, especially at a young age, is very important because that allows an athlete to grow in size and pack on more functional muscle. So if you take a 40-kilogram young weightlifter out of the Palaro who got a gold out of a diet of tuyo (dried fish), rice and vegetables because he or she lives in a province where the poverty level is high, just imagine the result if that young athlete is given better diet and training to boot? Only a moron would not get my point!

Athletes need adequate protein intake to pack on functional muscle and prevent muscle from being used as fuel during exertions (which can happen if an athlete is too lean and has no more carbohydrate stores to consume). So if you get a scrawny 40-kilogram weightlifter out of the Palaro and give him or her adequate training and nutrition, that athlete would be very strong and highly competitive in a few years, and may weigh 50 kilograms or more!

I doubt it if most young athletes taking part in the Palaro have proper nutrition. For sure, these young athletes have the fire to compete but without adequate nutrition, expert training and exposure outside of the Palaro, these young athletes will be forever competing just in the Palaro! And many of them come from the poor provinces. But how come very few or even none of the NSAs seem to realize that? Is it because of shortsightedness? If shortsightedness were not the case, then Hidylin Diaz, the only medallist from the Rio Olympics, would have enjoyed adequate support on all fronts many years back. From Diaz’s story, it sounds like she had to go through a struggle to make it to the Games.

If there was one successful grassroots program in the past, it was Project Gintong Alay program of President Ferdinand Marcos. Although it failed to produce a medallist in the Games, the program could have progressed to producing one or many if it wasn’t discontinued (or junked). The Gintong Alay produced 91 gold medallists in the 1991 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG), perhaps the best showing for the country in the regional meet. The country was also 2nd overall in 1983 SEAG and 3rd overall in 1985.

In the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines finished sixth overall. Don’t tell me that is an indication that there is a grassroots training program in the country!

There may be some things lacking in the Gintong Alay that could have given it more impact, like the large scale commissioning of sports experts to bring up to international standards the training of the country’s Olympians. Or maybe the private sector prefers to fund basketball teams.

What a pity!


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