Develop a basic sports program for future games


THE Philippines should continue their success at the Tokyo Olympics by developing core programs for certain sports that are suitable for Filipinos. Of course, no program can start anytime soon because of the pandemic, but we must start planning for future international competitions, including the next Olympic Games in Paris.

Of course, the basic program is not a new idea, and in the past there have been many other interesting suggestions regarding the development of the sport. Sadly, only a few seem to be listening, perhaps resigned to the poor performance of the Filipinos in previous Olympics.

The four medals, including the first gold, won by the Philippine contingent in Tokyo may have been a game-changer. Perhaps reforms could begin now, perhaps starting with weightlifting, which should be more popular now because of gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz. Hopefully it can become a mainstream sport here.

As this article reported, weightlifting is only popular in certain parts of the country, including the city of Zamboanga, which is Ms. Diaz’s hometown, and the provinces of Bohol and Cebu. The sport is so niche that it is not even an event in the Palarong Pambansa, which is organized by the Ministry of Education. Weightlifting is included in the Philippine National Games, hosted by the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission, but not in major college sports leagues, especially the Philippine University Sports Association (UAAP) and the Philippine National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Hidilyn Diaz. TMT FILE PHOTO

Monico Puentevella, president of Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas, told the Manila Times that no one cared about weightlifting until Ms. Diaz won an Olympic medal. “No one knew what weightlifting was.”

Ms Diaz, now 30, won silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but returned empty-handed to London in 2012 and Beijing in 2008. She hopes to compete in the next Olympics in 2024.

Our chances of winning medals would then be improved if we could develop more male and female weightlifters in different weight classes. But developing athletes in any sport means years of training and exposure to competition, often starting at the local level. Of course, those who can find success there will also need experience later on to participate in officially sanctioned events here and abroad.

Strategically selective

With limited national resources and now taxed by the pandemic, the Philippines should be selective in which sports programs to support, starting at the community level. Weightlifting is a great candidate as athletes compete in their weight class just like in boxing.

This setup is perhaps the reason why Filipino boxers are also enjoying some success at the Olympics. The other three medals won in Tokyo were, of course, in boxing.

Even though boxing is not yet part of the UAAP and NCAA, the sport is already an event at Palarong Pambansa and the Philippine National Games. This, along with the success of Manny Pacquiao and other Filipino pugilists, may have inspired young Filipinos to take up boxing at a young age as well.

Certainly, not all boxing or weightlifting enthusiasts will become elite athletes. But one advantage of any basic program is that it encourages young people to participate in sport, a healthy activity. Sport can even be useful in shaping a competitive mindset as well as developing social skills and good values.

To date, the only grassroots football program developed in the Philippines is basketball. But Filipinos, like most Southeast Asians, are relatively small, which is why the country poaches talent from abroad.

Rather, policymakers and private donors should encourage and fund other programs where size is less of a factor, such as baseball, football, gymnastics, diving, golf, tennis and some sporting events, in particular. running. Of course, they should also support programs that have already been successful, such as weightlifting and boxing, as well as other events where athletes compete in a weight class, such as wrestling.

Ms. Diaz herself started weightlifting early on. She would have participated in her first competition when she was only 11 years old.

If only we could develop other athletes at an early age, more Filipinos could become Olympic champions in the future.


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