The story that Hidylin Diaz carried buckets of water to her home when she was still young clearly demonstrates what the country should be doing to win medals in the Olympics: start them young in the sports where they will truly excel also based on their built.
Although Diaz carrying buckets of water so her family can have water is not really a type of training for Olympic weightlifting (although that is a form of strongman training), it gives an idea on what type of sport she can excel in. Besides, how many young men today can do farmer’s walk with 50 pounds in each hand over 20 or more meters?
Then we have Manny Pacquiao, who during his younger days had to engage in fistfights so he could survive in the streets. Look at the way he fights during his prime – his combinations look like they were honed in the streets!
And how many times have we heard of African “bushmen” doing great in international marathons because they had to run long distances just to reach the next village?
If you look at closely most Filipinos, they lack height and have limbs that are not long that makes them more tailored for boxing, combat sports, weightlifting and even gymnastics (Strangely, I am long-armed).
Well, long-armed Filipinos can also do well in boxing but will be hard-pressed (literally) to excel in Olympic weightlifting.
While Filipinos are obviously getting taller (just look at the average height of the PBA teams today compared to decades ago), the painful reality is European, Chinese, North American, South American and African basketball players are getting bigger and stronger too, with a good percentage of them being more agile too. But so much money and effort has been poured into basketball even if an Olympic medal (much more a gold) is impossible.
And look at the medals the country harvested from the Games during in the post-war era: Anthony Villanueva, silver in boxing (Japan, 1964); Leopoldo Serrantes, bronze in boxing (Seoul, 1988); Roel Velasco, bronze in boxing (Barcelona, 1992); Mansueto Velasco, silver in boxing (Atlanta, 1996); and Diaz.
Looking at the medal harvest of the country in the post-war era, it is obvious sports that do not require height or extraordinarily long limbs (like athletics, basketball and swimming) are where Filipinos can excel. The silver medal win of Diaz is actually an eye opener that Filipinos can excel in sports where power can negate height and long limbs. In fact, shorter limbs and a lower center of gravity favor weightlifters and powerlifters.
And also look at the built of gymnasts – very few of them have the long arms of Phelps or the lovely (yes!) long legs of Maria Sharapova. Heck, Serena Williams, who has won four Olympic gold medals, relies more on explosive power than lengthy limbs to bamboozle her opponents. Goes to show tennis is also a sport where athletes with height and long limbs can rule.
By the way, Olympic gymnastic legend Nadia Comenici stood at 5’4” and had wire-strong muscles. Why the absence of Filipino gymnasts in the Games?
So in the next few years, let’s hope the country – and I mean the government and private sector – put their gold on sports where an Olympic gold is possible.
The next part of this column-series will tackle how to start training the country’s Olympians at a young age.