Friday, January 10, 2014

The Secret To Winning Our Country's First Olympic Gold Medal

For other nation’s athletes, the quadrennial event is the place to showcase their talents while beating their similarly world class competitors. But for our country, it’s a 4 year cycle of frustration. We always hear about the “it’s not about winning” slogan in sports. I am a sports man myself. I’m not that competitive though in many games that I played, but I did play a lot.  I don’t win all the time but I still love doing sports. So I understand this “it’s not about winning” attitude. It’s about doing our best and learning from our defeats. But in this case, I'm still waiting for the learning part for our sports committees from the bunch of defeats that our country had been experiencing from decades of joining the Olympics and other sports event.

We might have world class sports people like Manny Pacquiao, Paeng Nepomuceno and Efren “Bata” Reyes. But in general, there’s no consistency. What I see is the blaming game debacles after debacles.  For a general long term program visioning our athletes to be consistently world class, I see none.

Onyok Velasco, Silver medalist in '96 Olympics. Our country haven't won a medal since.

Like you, I’m one of those who believe that our athletes, given the proper training and exposure can become top tiers in their fields. If we look back at our sports history, many had already proven this. I’m sure you can give a name of a Filipino athlete in our past that marked their names in the international stage.  And I’m sure that most of which you can name are the same as those who I can also remember. And that really means how few our world class athletes were in history. Well, except in boxing and billiards of course.

And after decades of being part of the modern Olympics, the gold is still as elusive as ever. As embarrassing as it is, a lot of other small and new member countries in the Olympics already overtook us in the overall medal tally. Since being a member of the tourney exactly 90 years ago, we only have 2 silver medals and 7 bronzes to show.

London Olympics 2012 Gold Medal

Just this last SEA Games held in Myanmar, our country had one of its lowest showing in the history of the competition, winning only 29 gold medals and placed seventh overall. It’s our worst actually. But the cause is not really our lack of competitiveness but it is by not sending many athletes since our sports officials think it’s a waste of money to send those who don’t have much chance to win medals. Only those “winnable” are sent. Even the highly touted Azkals, our football team, was not part of the team. And our basketball NT was in danger also of not being able to defend the title that we only lost once in this tournament have they decided not to send naturalized big man Marcus Douthit with the team. If you look at it, it seemed to be not about the competition and exposure for our officials but more about the money and the medals. So what does all of this have to do with the secret to winning our first ever gold medal in the Olympics?

Since our sports leaders are officially on a budget cut, then they probably are not very much into grass root training nor sending our potential athletes into training abroad. Or maybe if private groups or individuals shoulder the fees, then it’s okay with them. And it is currently working with some of our athletes like how Wesley So is being handled well in improving his FIDE ratings, our billiard players are continuously winning world cup events, some of our tennis prodigies are competing outside and getting ample exposures and even education abroad, and having both Azkals and Gilas making big leaps in increasing their world rankings. Let’s not forget to thank these generous companies and individuals who are supporting our athletes.

But for the other sports, since our officials are on a budget cut and seemed to be on a hurry to win and only send those who have chance of winning medals, here’s a remedy they can do to discover top notch athletes across the country and finally win our first ever gold medal in the Olympics.

  1. Concentrate on sports where world class competitiveness can be easily measured like swimming, weightlifting and athletics. Let’s say all sports where measurement of speed, strength, leap, etc is the metric.
  2. Collect and list all the world records for these events.
  3. Thru partnership with local governments and department of education, promote these sports in a separate annual event.
  4. Promote this program as where only those who can reach or perform within world record level of measurement (speed in swimming and running, length and height of jumps or leaps, weightlift records) are allowed to join. Put a little tolerance on the measurement let’s say those who can perform at least .5% under the world record are only allowed to join.
  5. To prove that they can do it, there will be auditions and screening. Or they can record it thru a video under a supervision of members of local government.


And those who will pass the requirements are the ones to be trained for the international events. Then for those who will be able to equate or surpass the current world records, they will be given BIG monetary incentives right away, and should be huge enough that those aspiring athletes will be motivated to train more to be able to reach international standards. Let’s be honest that besides competitiveness and winning, earning is one of the biggest motivations for most athletes. That’s the reason why there are so many athletes around the world who are chasing professional careers which promise big paychecks. Besides, it would be difficult for an athlete to divide their time with training for sports while making a living for their family which I think is what pushes back some of our promising talents earlier on.

Hidilyn Diaz, our best chance at a medal last Olympics. And on the next.

By following this program, we can easily pick our world class athletes easily.  By proper advertisement with an almost free assistance from government bodies (public schools and local government), we can see the promising undiscovered athletes presenting themselves at the doorsteps. I know that it’s not easy to coordinate with some schools and LGUs but for sure, media will pick this up as well. Let’s say we entitle it the “1 Million Peso Olympic Record Challenge”. Those who can break the current world records in swimming, running, or weightlifting will get 1 Million Pesos in cash right away plus assured world class training. And we may not need our government to bring out the money here since private companies can sponsor this event. All the government has to do is to spearhead.

Or maybe even without the hand of the government, some generous billionaires out there can make this idea into reality. If only I have the money, I will do this. But I don’t. I’m just a fan. And I’m not even sure if this program will surely bring gold medals to our country’s Olympic haul. But probably it can give us a fighting chance at least. And we really must do something about it and not leaving out the gold medal to chance that maybe, some super athlete out there is born from a Filipino parent who will be unbeatable.  Or let’s just continue day dreaming that we’ll finally be able to see in our lifetime our National Flag being raised during the awarding ceremony while our National anthem is being played in the background and our athlete is standing there on the top podium, wearing that elusive gold medal.

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