DON’T be surprised if Brunei becomes a force to reckon with in the Southeast Asian Games track and field competitions in the near future.
It’s because Brunei athletics is in capable hands at present.
Isidro del Prado, arguably the finest, greatest ever Filipino to run the 400-m event, is handling the coaching chores of Brunei for almost three years now and has started producing results.
“I’ve been there (Brunei) for three years as a coach now. I'm enjoying my stay,” said del Prado in Filipino during a chat with a Team Philippines official who chanced upon him on his way to the dining hall.
The 53-year-old del Prado is in the London Games as mentor of a young Bruneian 400-meter runner who competed in one of the heats in the event on Saturday morning.
Although the runner didn’t make it past the qualifying heats, del Prado said he took pride in helping Haffy Rositi break his national record in the event with a new time of 48.67 seconds at the Olympic stadium.
“The improvement was big. He cut around five seconds off his own record. That’s very encouraging,’’ said del Prado.
‘Del’ to family, friends and athletes, del Prado is best remembered for becoming one of the two most successful athletes the country has produced under Project: Gintong Alay during martial law.
The other one was former Asian sprint queen Lydia de Vega, who became the face of the project, a training program copied and envied by several Southeast Asian countries in the 80s.
Looking back, Del said that Gintong Alay, the forerunner of the Philippine Sports Commission, has been good to him, to Lydia and to the countless others who played under its wings.
“It was a good program. It produced results,” said del Prado.
As ‘Alay’ mainstay then, del Prado reigned supreme in the 400-m two times in the Asian championships (1982 and 1984) and four times in the SEA Games (1981,1983, 1987 and 1989).
Along with Honesto Larce, Leopoldo Arnillo and Romeo Gido, Del anchored that dreaded national 4x400-m relay squad which went unchallenged for a long time in the SEA Games.
Is he staying for good in Brunei?
“Of course not. I am a Filipino. I will definitely come home,” said Del, before excusing himself to attend a function hosted by a Bruneian prince inside the Village.