The Asian Games in Palembang and Jakarta in Indonesia will be done by the time you read this piece, and initially, I really thought the best title for it would be The Mourning After, expecting that our Filipino athletes will again fall by the wayside in the competition as we saw in the first few days of the competition.
But I was happy to be proven wrong when as of this writing, we already won four gold medals, compared to only one we got in the last edition of the Asiad in Korea, and it was an all-women show for the golds so far as Hidilyn Diaz, our silver medalist in the Olympic Games delivered the first gold, then after a week, Yuka Saso won the individual title in women’s golf and shared in the team gold too with Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go.
But the surprise was pulled off by relatively unknown Margielyn Didal from Cebu when she ruled the women’s skateboarding competition. And all of them will become overnight millionaires when they return and receive their incentives from the Philippine Sports Commission, the MVP Sports Foundation, and other private sector donors who will want to share in the glory.
And we have three boxers going into the semis — Roger Ladon, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial, meaning assured bronze medals too, same with Kiyomi Watanabe in judo, who was supposed to be in the finals already. A long shot will be equestrian with Toni Leviste and Joker Arroyo still in the running for a podium finish.
So there really should be no mourning as definitely our ranking in the Asian Games will definitely improve from its 22nd place in Korea, a good sign for the new leadership after the ouster of Peping Cojuangco at the POC helm.
But no, basketball fans are mourning after we struck out for a medal finish after absorbing a loss to China in a close game, the best game for our boys I believe, a team that was hastily formed after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) initially refused to field a team but bowed down to a public outcry. And an opening game win against Kazakhstan raised false hopes, more so with the arrival of NBA player Clarkson Jordan who proved his worth. We beat Japan and in all probabilities, will end up 5th because we will play either Syria or Indonesia, Syria I believe prevailed but we could beat any of the two teams.
But then with a two week preparation time, can we really expect that team of Yeng Guiao to win a medal playing against the likes of China and South Korea that have long been preparing for the Asian Games? Certainly not the fault of the players who played their hearts out but in the end, I will reiterate that we really should tone down the goals for the country in basketball.
In Sea Games competitions, we should be number one, no questions, in the Asian level, top four will be reasonable, with a possible podium finish, Fiba World and the Olympics, forget it, there is simply no way we can do well at that level. But then knowing how crazy we are in basketball that people like MVP will be willing to spend hundreds of millions of pesos for the sport, who can stop him from spending his money where he wants to?
The Blu Girls, a team that has earned its way into the world championship, fought all the way but fell short, bowing down to mighty Japan and Chinse Taipei twice. The women’s volleyball team did not surprise me, if we could not even make it to the semis in the Sea Games, and then we join the Asian Games with the likes of world and Olympic champions teams China and Korea, I was not surprised at all.
For me, the Asian Games should not be where we learn, it should be the competition for us that when we send there our athletes, it is not only hoping for a win but a fair chance of winning a medal. We should not send there simply because a team can afford to pay its way. The Asian Games is where our athletes apply what they have learned .
And if our sports officials want to do well in the 2019 Sea Games here, then they should already name all the medalists here in Indonesia who will have similar events in the Sea Games to the national team and start training, including international stints.
Now is the best time for our sports leaders to start making the changes in Philippine sports that we have been dreaming of for a long time. The POC, the PSC, the NSAs, the private sector that supports sports, all should get involved in the final planning for Philippine sports. We all know what ails sports, and we also know the solutions.
But will the solutions be implemented? That is the big question.