RATHER than sulking over the possible medal backlash in the country’s coming Southeast Asian Games campaign, Senator Francis `Chiz’ Escudero says it’s time for top sports officials to move on and focus on preparing Filipino athletes for the more important events such as the Asian Games and the Olympics.
Escudero appeared already resigned to the fact that the calendar of events for the December 11-22 SEA Games in Myanmar will no longer be altered by the host country, aware that the present set-up of the biennial meet gives host countries the leeway to choose which disciplines are going to be included.
So instead of lobbying for the re-inclusion of Olympic sports scrapped by the host in favor of indigenous events that will only benefit a few, the senator is encouraging officials of both the Philippine Olympic Committee and Philippine Sports Commission to turn their focus to the country’s campaign in the Asiad next year and in the Olympics three years from now.
“It’s a setback. There’s no other way to call it but that,” Escudero said about the looming backlash the country is expected to experience in Myanmar, where 20 of the 36 events it won gold during the 2011 edition of the SEA Games in Indonesia had been removed.
“But we should move on and think about the bigger task ahead, like the Asian Games and the Olympics, where we have not been winning medals for a long time now.”
With the country seeing action in lesser events in the SEA Games, Escudero said the PSC could spend its savings of more than P500 million in training athletes for the Rio Games.
“There is more than enough with this money available," Escudero said.
“While the SEA Games remain important in our sporting calendar, we should not take our focus away from the Olympics. It would do us best if we choose our priority Olympic events right away and give them funding aside from what they receive from their private sponsors," said the senator, an avid pistol shooter and bike enthusiast.
The last time the Philippines had a podium finish in the Olympics was in 1996, when Mansueto 'Onyok' Velasco settled for a boxing silver medal in the light-flyweight division behind gold medal winner Daniel Petrov Bujilov of Bulgaria.
The country did not win any medal in the succeeding Olympics in Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
At the same time, this should not stop the POC and even the PSC from pushing for reforms in making the SEA Games Charter adaptable to the Games in the future.
The recent visit of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah somehow boosted the Philippines' chances of getting enough support from other SEA Games countries in pushing for reforms, according to Escudero.
“The PSC has the capability to stop our decline this time. And let us support the POC's fight for fair competition in the SEA Games," Escudero said. "These are heavy workloads for our athletes and sports officials, but we all have to do these now."