RP athletes did their best in Laos SEAG despite tall odds
By Eddie Alinea
Sun, 20 Dec 2009
Lord knew they tried.
At a time when life has been dealing them cards from the bottom of the deck for most of their preparations, when the aces and jacks seemed marked, and it?s kind of hard to trust the dealer, the Filipino athletes delivered.
The Filipinos, who four years ago were at the top of the Southeast Asian Games totem pole but dropped to their lowest sixth overall in the conclave?s 32-year participation in 2007, tried to save whatever they still could by looking at the bright side of a world that their leaders fought tooth-and-nail as to who?s boss and hoisted themselves above all odds to win medals of whatever colors in to catapult themselves to a notch higher than that in Thailand.
The 38 gold medals, 35 silver medals and 51 bronze medals were pittance from the 41-91-96 harvest of two years ago, but those modest production proved enough to show that despite their sports higher ups? pettiness that led most of them without proper training in terms of international exposure, they still possess the resolution, determination and guts to propel their in-born talents and bring honor not only to themselves but to the country as well.
They went to the premier city of Vientiane in Laos scandalously divided ? one group funded by the Philippine Sports Commission and the other by the Philippine Olympic Committee ? with separate set of uniforms and allowance with the former receiving more and the latter almost nil.
Lack of international standard facilities in the host nation and several other reasons saw them losing no less than 19 of that 41 gold medals they won two years ago due to the cancellation of baseball, softball, dance sport, fencing, rowing, triathlon and some events in cycling where the Filipinos ruled supreme in 2007.
Basketball, supposed to be the nation?s favorite pastime, was also dropped due to failure of the national sports association concerned to put up a powerful lobby that could have reverted to an earlier decision to scrap it.
As if the discrepancy in the allowance was not enough to affect the athletes? psychological state, their morale was further dropped with the barring of the entire cycling team from participation because of the Filipino riders? failure to secure licenses from the International Cycling Union, the world?s governing body in the sport.
And to add salt to the cut, Marites Bitbit, the only cyclist with license and winner of the 116-kilometer road race the last time around and a pair of bronze medals, was also not allowed to take part in the three events she was scheduled to race, by, who else, but the delegation?s highest officials.
Prior to their departure, of course, was the PSC intervention into the purely POC affair of deciding who make up the national delegation by insisting on the gold-silver criteria that overruled earlier stand are of gold-silver-bronze set by the POC, thus, adding to the confusion and chaos in the preparations and actual participation.
The athletes though totally set aside these problems when they trooped to the field where they short of killed themselves in showing to their peers from the 10 other SEA Games Federation member countries that they are at par with them, if not better, in terms of athletics prowess, talents and fighting spirit.
Why, even the much-maligned wrestlers, whom the PSC high priest branded as fake athletes when they led a minor athletes? uprising, showed their best. Inspired by their leaders, bemedalled former campaigner himself Marcus Valda, a nephew of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, The Filipino strongmen emerged the fifth winningest team, bringing home a 3-2-4 gold-silver-bronze harvest.
Two of the grapplers? three gold medals came courtesy of athletes not funded by the PSC ? Margarito Angana in the 55-kilogram Greco-Roman event and Jason Balabal in the over 74-kg. discipline ? as both proved that winning medals is not all money. Angana?s sibling Jimmy, who was funded by the PSC completed the wrestlers gold production.
Only the Filipino runners, jumpers and throwers in athletics who collected seven gold medals, boxers with five, swimmers and taekwondo jins with four each came superior to the wrestlers in striking gold. Valda?s charges even beat the much-ballyhooed billiards, tennis and wushu teams which can only come up with a pair each.
Two of athletics winnings also came from non-PSC sanctioned campaigners ? maratho0ners Eduardo Buenavista and Jho-An Banayag ? who teamed up with steeplechaser Rene Herrera, hammer thrower Arniel Ferrera, javelin throwers Rosie Villarito and Danilo Fresnido, long jumper MaristellaTorres in handing Go Teng Kok?s Army the honor of being the winningest team.
The lady fighters trio of pin weight Josie Gabuco, light-flyweight Alice Kate Appari and flyweight Annie Albania outperformed their men?s counterparts pin weight Bill Vicera and featherweight Charly Suarez in gifting the boxing team its five gold-medal harvest.
Outstanding male Athlete of 2007 Miguel Molina swept the 200 and 400 individual medley at the forefront of swimming; four-gold-medal production that also saw Ryan Arabejo took top honor in 1500 freestyle and Daniel Oakley the 50-m freestyle.
As expected, two-time Olympians Tsomlee Go and Mary Antoinette Rivero led the jins? four-gold medal assault along with Alexander Briones and the poomsee trio of Carfla Janice Lagman, Francesca Alarilla and Rani Ann Ortega.
Dubbed as the ?dream team? because of the presence of former world champion Efren ?Bata? Reyes and Franbcisco ?Django? Bustamante, it took the gutsy performance of lady cue artist Rubelin Amit and Ronnie Alcano to save the day for the billiards and snooker squad. Amit emerged the women?s division 8-ball and 9-ball singles queen while former world double-champ Alano the men?s 8-ball king.
Fil-Am Cecil Mamiit frowned himself the singles champion and teamed up with fellow Fil-Am Conrad Treat Huey and local-born Johnny Arcilla to rule, too, the men?s team competition in tennis.
Other gold medal winners were Marian Mariano and Mark Eddivaq in wushu, John Baylon and Nancy Quillotes in judo, Chuichiro Ikeda in golf, Ikeda, Dottie Ardina and Marzia Imelda Isabel Piccio in team golf, Zaidi Laruan in muay, Arfina Pabillore in karatedo, Tac Padilla in shooting and Jennifer Chan in archery.
Baylon, in his mid-40s, of course, took his ninth SEA Games gold, while Padilla saved shooting?s participation by salvaging the lone gold, while ending a decade and-a-half victory drought.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.
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