The performance of Team Philippines in the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea echoes again the sorry state of the country’s sports system.
Ending up with only one gold medal from an unlikely sport, BMX, shows that this basketball-crazy nation should start putting its resources in other sports that can assure victories.
Besides the gold won by biker Daniel Caluag, the Philippines garnered three silver and 11 bronze medals to end up 22nd overall among 55 countries. (The International Olympic Committee does not endorse the medal tally to crown the “winner’’ of world sports events that it sanctions but it cannot stop participating countries from citing it in their quest for athletic, if not economic and political, superiority.)
The other Filipino medalists are Charly Suarez of boxing and Jean Claude Saclag and Daniel Parantac of wushu (silver); and archer Paul Marlon dela Cruz, boxers Mark Barriga, Mario Fernandez and Wilfredo Lopez, karateka Mae Soriano, tae kwo do jins Benjamin Sembrano, Thomas Morrison, Mary Pelaez, Kirstie Elaine Alora and Ronna llao and wushu artist Francisco Solis (bronze).
Meanwhile, Thailand was sixth overall with six golds, while supposedly food-poor North Korea was at seventh place. As usual, powerhouse China topped not only the gold tally with 151 but also the Games itself for the nth time.
“How many times do we have to review our sport program?” a comment on a website asked. “We don’t want to select and train our athletes the right way, we always go for the shortcut by hiring athletes who shoulder their training by themselves. We don’t even have quality training facilities and coaches for our athletes. Worse, the budget for training is so small compared to other countries and a portion of this budget is pocketed by politicians/officials.”
This party explains the low finish of the Philippines in the 2014 Incheon Asiad and we cannot agree more with the opinion of a visibly seething sports watcher.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose uncle Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. heads the Philippine Olympic Committee, himself expressed disappointment over the country’s forgettable performance and called for the resources to be channeled to sports where Filipinos have a competitive edge.
Apparently, it is in combat sports that we can hold our own even against the world’s best.
Although no gold medal was brought home from such disciplines during the Incheon Games, harvested were 13 silvers and bronzes out of the total 15 won by the country.
Other sports deserve funding, however. The Philippines should be thankful that there are sports patrons like Manuel V. Pangilinan, or MVP, whose donations to the national basketball and boxing teams cannot be overlooked.
What the country needs are more MVPs, particularly those from large companies that earn big each year and who would be willing to give financial backing to the combat sportsmen and sportswomen, and even archers like Gabriel Luis Moreno, gold medalist (mixed team) in last months’s Youth Olympic Games.
More important, the Philippines must undertake a grassroots sports development program that will identify which disciplines an aspiring young athlete can excel in.
It may be also be good for us to keep politicians out from the country’s sports program, which they seem to treat as an extension of their political domain.
Also, does the country have to “naturalize” players for the national basketball team if only to make it competitive? Perhaps it is better to intensify the training of the country’s cagers than get “imports” to play for the flag.
The country’s performance in the 2014 Asian Games and even the 2013 Southeast Asian Games should serve as a wake-up call for the country’s sports authorities to rethink or even overhaul the Philippines’ sports policies.
The curse would be these authorities sleeping on such policies until the next debacle worse than Incheon.