WHAT? No takers?
AN American business executive who has launched a private sector initiative to financially support track and field athletes has found that getting sponsors is easier than finding athletes.
“There are three steps to success in life: determine what you want, determine the price and you have to pay the price. It’s incredibly simple. The problem is not many people are willing to do those steps. They don’t know what they want and they don’t want to pay the price,” Jim Lafferty said during a press conference of Adopt An Olympian program at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City on Tuesday.
“If we put that into context in this project, we have good news. We have CEOs who are stepping up. We have three more in the ranks. They are waiting for the athletes,” Lafferty said.
So far, three prospective Olympians have taken up Lafferty's offer. Decathlon record holder Jesson Ramil Cid is the latest beneficiary as his training will be sponsored by the Wong Chu King Foundation for the next two years.
Cid joins long jump queen Marestella Torres and her husband, shot putter Eliezer Sunang. Lafferty is personally supervising Torres’ Olympic bid while Sunang is being backed by Diamond Leasing, a car rental company.
Lafferty, who screens potential applicants, said they focus on two main criteria when it comes to athletic credentials: the talent to compete at the Olympic level and the mental attitude coupled with the discipline to adhere to a difficult regimen.
The tobacco company executive maintains the Philippines has a good number of world-class athletes. It’s in the latter that is proving to be a challenge.
“The sobering news is we have some works in progress. We need to make sure the athletes are passing the standards. We have some athletes that have said, ‘I am not prepared to give up all of those food to do this.’ And we tell them ‘Okay, then we’re not going to bring you into the project,’” he said.
Among the changes an athlete has to agree to is a very strict diet where rice and bread will be eliminated; highly regimented training guidelines and constant observation and measurements (even their sleeping patterns will be monitored). The athletes will also be willing to relocate from their existing quarters to residences nearer to their coaches to facilitate training and remove all possible distractions while training full-time for six days a week.
“Almost all of our athletes are under-eating protein and are not building sufficient muscle mass,” said Lafferty.
Cid, a 22-year old native of Dingras, Ilocos Norte, said he agreed to Lafferty’s terms to seize an opportunity to win an Olympic medal. The former UAAP superstar and part-time commercial model said he is confident that he has the discipline to see things through.
For the next two months, Cid's target is to improve his upper body strength so he could better his personal record of 7,069 to the 7,300-7,500 range.
Their mission is daunting: to bring home a gold medal from track and field in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero and to build a foundation to follow it up with multiple medals in athletics in 2020 via a strategy that focuses on a few high-potential athletes, each of whom would be paired with a CEO who will shoulder P160,000 a month for two years to cover the training costs.
This is a tall order since the Philippines has not won an Olympic medal since 1996 in the Atlanta Olympics and has not won a track and field medal ever. The country has failed to bring home a gold medal in track and field in the Asian Games since Elma Muros’ accomplishment in 1994.
Philip Ella Juico, Philippine Track and Field Association (Patafa) president lauded the program but admitted they need to formalize the selection process to find the proper (and willing) athletes.
“There is a need to come up with a memorandum of agreement to put order in the relationship … to complement and supplement each other to make sure things are done properly,” the new Patafa chief explained.
Patafa has a pool of 13 athletes that have been shortlisted to five but Juico declined to “prematurely” mention their names. Incidentally, Patafa, has the largest budget among the 52 national sports associations (NSAs) at P52 million.
Employing a holistic approach, each athlete would be supported by a staff comprised of an event coach, strategy coach, flexibility coach, nutritionist, sports psychologist, masseuse and team doctors/ specialists from the Asian Hospital. Gold’s Gym has also opened its doors in providing training facilities.
“This is an Olympic project,” maintained Lafferty, who argued the SEA Games and Asian Games should take a back seat in their efforts. The American feels if the Philippines can send five to six athletes to the quadrennial event, the country can bring back lost glory.
The University of Cincinnati psychology and physiology major is presently an honorary coach and consultant of the Patafa. The 51-year old American business executive is an avid sportsman who has worked with national teams in the US, Germany, France and Nigeria where he was a part of the national delegation to the 2012 London Olympics.