MANILA -- Stop bickering and start thinking of the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG), which the country will host this year.
This was the advice of taekwondo Olympian Monsour del Rosario as he urged fellow sports officials and athletes to set aside their differences and work together to ensure the country’s success in the biennial competition scheduled in Manila, Subic and Clark on November 30 to December 11.
“The Filipino athletes are talented enough to be the best in Southeast Asia, but we still have a lot of work to do to win the gold medals,” said the 1988 Seoul Olympics veteran during the fifth “Usapang Sports” by the Tabloid Organization in Philippine Sports (TOP) at the National Press Club in Intramuros on Thursday.
“As host nation, we have to do our best to win as many gold medals as possible,” added del Rosario, who bagged several medals for the country in the SEA Games, Asian Games, and World Championships from 1982 to 1989.
The 53-year-old taekwondo champion said he hopes to duplicate, if not surpass, the country’s historic 19th-place finish at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Turkmenistan where he also served as chef de mission. The Philippines bagged two golds, 14 silvers and 14 bronzes while competing in 17 of 21 sports.
“In the AIMAG, I was given a free hand to call the shots for the 105-strong Filipino delegation. Like a war general, I planned the strategy for the team, worked with the coaches and athletes and even stayed with them at the Athletes Village. It worked to perfection,” explained del Rosario, also known in the sports circle as "Mr. Taekwondo".
The athlete-turned-public servant from Makati hopes to get the same support from both the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) in the coming SEA Games “not only to make his job easier but boost the Filipinos’ chances of winning.”
Del Rosario revealed that he has already recommended long-time friend and taekwondo champion Stephen Fernandez, former national rugby player Ada Milby and Netball Philippines president Charlie Ho to join him as deputy chef de mission.
“I think the POC Board has already approved my recommendation to add Stephen (Fernandez) and Charlie (Ho),” del Rosario said. The POC has yet to decide on Milby, the first female member of the World Rugby Council and younger sister of actor Sam Milby.
“With some events to be held in Subic and Clark, I need these three officials to work with me in the SEA Games. I know both Stephen and Charlie personally, whiIe I heard that Ada is a hardworking, result-oriented individual during her time as player of the national rugby team,” he said.
Del Rosario was joined in the weekly sports forum by former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Eric Buhain and former national swimming coach Pinky Brosas.
“The (SEA Games) clock is ticking. We have to come together and work together to bring the best for the country,” said Buhain, who also served as chairman of the Games and Amusement Board after his stint in the PSC.
Buhain, who made history by winning a record six swimming gold medals during the “Miracle of ’91” in the 16th SEAG, said he believes there are enough talented young swimmers who can also bring honor to the country, provided they are given proper training and motivation.
“I see a lot of new faces, who can take our places. Madaming magagaling, madaming masigasig ngayon (There are many good and determined swimmers today),” added Buhain, who was named Best Male Athlete at the 1991 SEA Games.
“But we have to get our acts together now. And we will do it starting today by launching an online registration for interested swimmers and coaches all over the country, regardless of affiliation to join our group,” said Buhain, who represented the country in the 1998 Seoul Olympics and 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
“From there, we will schedule a series of qualifying competitions under the best coaches to ensure that we will only field the best swimmers in the SEA Games,” the 48-year-old added.
Brosas, on the other hand, lamented the failure of top officials to launch a sound and comprehensive training program that can produce outstanding swimmers like Buhain, Thomson and Christine Jacob-Sandejas.
He said the country can’t simply rely on looking for fresh talents abroad, but should also set its sights on talented local swimmers even from as far as Basilan and Sulu in Mindanao.
“In Basilan, there are young and tall swimmers who can be trained extensively by our swimming accociation,” explained Brosas, who also served as coach of two-time Olympic swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi.
“As Eric and I said, all these swimmers, no matter how talented, should also undergo qualifying rounds. Even the great American swimming champion Michael Phelps underwent qualifying.” (PR)
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