I spent a good amount of time watching video updates on the different sports disciplines under athletics throughout the 28th Southeast Asian Games duration. Singapore Sports over at YouTube offered a good coverage of almost all of these events live as they were being played out or replayed in their well-categorized archive for easy searching. In this manner, I was relatively up-to-date despite the measly coverage offered by the local channel with the franchise to air this biennial sport event. Mostly, they show only select team and individual sports like basketball, volleyball and boxing.
There were several realizations I formed out of this viewing experience:
1. Those athletes who are “imported” either fared very well in record breaking fashion or podium placed. In the sprint distance of 100 meter dash, both Fil-Am athletes Eric Shauwn Cray and Kayla Anise Richardson claimed the top spot, earning for their parent/s’ country her 2nd and 3rd gold in athletics. The first gold came on the second day of track and field competition courtesy of another Fil-Am Caleb Christian John Stuart in the hammer throw discipline. All of these are either in SEA Game record or Philippine record setting fashion.
|Eric Shauwn Cray||100m||Gold|
|Caleb CJ Stuart||Hammer Throw||Gold|
|Donovant Arriola Jr.||Long Jump||Bronze|
|Jessica Lyn Barnard||3000m Steeplechase||Bronze|
The record shaterring performance of Eric Shauwn Cray in the 100m final.
2. Talking about Fil-Am athletes, I had witnessed during my college days the hype created when decathlete David Bunevacz blazed through the competition with good enough track and field versatility to place third and a whole lots of good looks and charm to hit gold in the hearts of many star-struck fans including the rich celebrity manager who later bacame his wife.
Thus, this system, though also applied by other countries like Singapore in their star swimmer Joseph Schooling who studied and trained in the states, do not sit well with me. I would rather see a homegrown talent like Christopher Ulboc, Jr. outclass his competition in the 3000m steeplechase and victoriously throw his arms up even meters before the finish line. Such is a sweeter victory for me, something that resounds throughout the far-flung Filipino villages lucky enough to see this performance on TV, and inspires an emaciated Filipino child laboring on the farm to dream.
By the way, Christopher is the only other gold medal winner in athletics.
|Christopher Ulboc Jr.||3000m Steeplechase||Gold|
I’m having goose bumps watching this very inspiring performance of Christopher Ulboc, Jr. in 3000m Steeplechase final.
3. But Filipinos will never tire of Adonis-like sports personalities and they found a promising matinee idol material in Jesson Ramil CID, a silver medal decathlete. Unlike David Bunevacz though, Jesson is a home grown and trained athlete who, unfortunately, was not able to defend his 27th SEAG title. Despite this shortfall, though, there was a clear cut improvement in his performance in all 10 track and field disciplines.
Another ray of light for the local sporting scene is his teammate Janry Ubas, who was just breathing at his heels in third place. In the sport like pole vault where Jesson was weak, Janry stepped up to ensure a Filipino podium finish.
|Jesson Ramil Cid||Decathlon||Silver|
Hearthrob athlete of the 90’s David Bunevacz.
Matinee Idol potential Jesson Ramil Cid.
4. I observed how the contingents fielded by competing countries were composed mostly of very young athletes. This is not only true in athletics as I witnessed the same trend also in other sports. The Philippines, on its part, is likewise giving young athletes barely out of NCAA or UAAP competition a chance to develop and shine in this international exposure. This is a promising sign of the kind of delegate the country will be fielding in years to come. And these young athletes did not disappoint! They either placed on the podium or barely outside of it with a clear shot of the top. And with enough time in their hands to fully develop and hopefully, competent coaches, they surely will blow the field come the next SEA Games or the next!
|Ernest John Obiena||Pole Vault||Silver|
|Riezel Buenaventura||Pole Vault||Bronze|
|Patrick Ma. Unso||110m Hurdles||Bronze|
5. On the other end of the age spectrum, there are our more senior athletes who have had their glorious moments in past editions and had given the country honor by being the region’s best. The likes of Eduardo Buenavista in marathon, Rene Herrera in Steeple Chase, Arniel Ferrera in the hammer throw, Maristella Torres in the long jump. Some of them like Maristella, who was sidelined for a year due to pregnancy and childbirth, was still able to podium place (third). And boy she already had abs!
The others I believe had seen glorious days and, don’t get me wrong, had nothing else to prove. They had already given the country enough honor to be knighted and to be content on resting on their laurels with a hefty bonus money and pension they so deserve. Or do they? Such is the sad plight of our local sporting heroes. And so they dig inside their mature body for more just to continue the flow of funds and be able to feed their family.
|Eduardo Buenavista||Men’s Marathon||5th Place|
|Rene Herrera||3000m Steeplechase||10th Place|
|Arniel Ferrera||Hammer Throw||4th Place|
|Maristella Torres||Long Jump||Bronze|
|Rosie Villarito||Javelin Throw||Bronze|
6. The good thing going on here is behind their back is a very promising and young athlete just waiting for their time to shine behind their shadows like Christopher Ulboc, who just did shine, behind Rene Herrera’s. Maristella got her back covered quite beautifully, literally and figuratively, by Khay Kathrine Santos who was 0.30cm shy of a podium finish. What should have been another changing of guards in both Milo Marathon Kings Eduardo Buenavista and Rafael Poliquit unfortunately did not happen due to unforeseen factors playing out during the race itself. After all theirs was not a mere circle around the oval (and even this can have unforeseen problems); theirs was the marathon distance that played out for more than 2 hours in the roads of Singapore exposed to environmental factors. Rafael unfortunately DNF’d. But watch out for the revenge!
The marathon final.
7. The fighting spirit of Filipinos played a major role in this competition. What they lack in financial and training support , they more than compensated in competitive spirit and heart. A good example is how Mervin Guarte, a middle distance specialist, slumped himself face down the track oval in his earnest bid to reach the finish line first in his 800 meter photo-finish duel with a strong Vietnamese runner. Archand Bagsit, on the other hand, sacrificed his bid in the 400m dash he reigned supreme last SEA Games when he over stretched his limitations just to run toe-to-toe with a formidable Thai in the 4×400 relay. Luck, Edgardo Alejan Jr. was able to finish third in this discipline with the champion not able to qualify. During the Victory Party, Archand promised to avenge his loss in the 29th edition.
|Archand Christian Bagsit||4×400||Silver|
|Edgardo Alejan Jr.||4×400||Silver|
|Mary Joy Tabal||Marathon||Silver|
|Edgardo Alejan Jr.||400m||Bronze|
Watch carefully the suspenseful last meters
before the finish line and Mervin’s admirable last effort
to try to win the gold.
PATAFA (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association), the governing body of Philippines athletics, had been through all sorts of controversies and hiccups throughout its history. However, it has maintained its position as the region’s track and field powerhouse, most especially during the two decades when it was presided over by Governor Sering and Michael Keon, throughout those years. This is the era that produced Asian superstars like Lydia de Vega, Elma Muros, Isidro del Prado and Hector Begeo. The Go Teng Kok era followed suit with his own brand of realizing potentials and producing athletics heroes like the GTK army.
But the region is not only fast catching up, it has gobbled us up. In fact, Thailand and Vietnam have been lording over this discipline by the start of the 21st century. We had been lagging behind.
This now is the challenge that faces the new PATAFA president, Phillip Ella Juico. How will he turn the tide and bring the country back to its powerhouse position of yore? The lot is full of promising and talented young upcoming athletes who will do anything and everything just to achieve supremacy in the sport. What they lack is support from all fronts, not only Government funding, but most especially those coming from the private sector.
The initiative taken by VELOCI TIME in throwing a send off party and a victory party before and after their stint in Singapore are the simplest but most thoughtful of gestures enough to let our athletes feel that they are important, that their performance matters to us too. These are enough to propel them to greater achievements. I salute VELOCI TIME for these initiatives!