SEAG:  AFTER  THE  PARTY

MANILA, December 9, 2005 
(STAR) BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa - Temporarily buried by the frenzy and jubilation generated by the country’s first ever South East Asian (SEA) Games overall championship is the real challenge the historical feat will pose in the next three years.

A proud nation salutes Team Philippines for its runaway victory in the biennial games and for triumphantly achieving its goal in the recently concluded Manila SEA Games with a 113-84-94 gold-silver-bronze medal tally.

Making the triumph sweeter is that Team Philippines had to contend with distractions and adversity triggered by months of political turbulence, financial uncertainties and leadership disputes in some sports associations, as well as critics who cast a cloud of doubt on the fairness of the Games and victories scored by Filipino bets.

Victories in several fields, such as wushu, billiards, bowling, taekwondo and judo, underscored the Filipino athletes’ international-caliber skills and partly explained why Team Philippines landed at the top of the heap.

Mere boasting and losing focus

As in most sporting events, sour grapes do surface, and this time around, one of the biggest sour grape was no less than Thailand PM Thaksin Shinawatra who jolted the games with his dig and insinuation that local organizers were flexing their muscles and rigging some events.

Shinawatra’s misguided, unfounded and uncalled for remarks were shared by skeptics who harped on Philippine sports officials’ penchant for boasting and losing focus. Even as the Philippines missed the overall championship by one gold in the 1991 SEAG, which incidentally the country also hosted, sports officials were then proudly proclaiming that the country was back on track as a sports powerhouse in the region.

This was all bravado though as was borne by our track record in the next six SEA games. Team Philippines was third in 1993 and 1995, fourth in1997, fifth in 1999 and 2001, and fourth in 2003.

Staying on top

After the serious accusation made by Thaksin, Team Philippines can – and must – prove that its 23rd SEA Games championship on home soil is no fluke.

The opportunity presents itself in the next three years. Next year, the Asian Games will be hosted by Qatar. The year after, the 24th SEA Games will be staged, coincidentally, in Shinawatra’s lair in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Come 2008, the summer Olympic Games will be held in Beijing.

Bagging the SEAG crown dictates that Team Philippines must lord it over 10 other regional neighbors in the 2006 Asian Games. Defending the overall title – or at least approximating its recent performance and medal haul – is Team Philippines’ immediate goals if it wishes to prove to the world and to itself that it has indeed found its way back to sporting glory.

Duplicating the feat in the Chiang Mai SEA Games may be a tough goal – but an equally strong and gallant stand approximating what Filipinos witnessed from their athletes here in Manila would definitely dash any speculation and allegations that the country’s SEA Games championship was courtesy of some irregularities and not of pure athletic talent and hard work.

Basketball case

Scrapping basketball from the list of events in the 23rd SEA Games may have proven to be a blessing in disguise.

Following weeks of harrowing negotiations and maneuvers aimed at prompting the FIBA, the world basketball cage body, to lift its suspension of the Philippines, organizers rightfully dropped basketball and focused on other more worthwhile matters such as ensuring the smooth conduct of the games.

Forcing the issue to include basketball in the list of events despite the unresolved leadership row and defying the FIBA suspension would have worsened the situation.

Foregoing basketball in the Manila SEA Games likewise underscored the need for endlessly warring basketball association officials and stakeholders to mend fences and stop putting the country in a bad light before the international stage.

Furthermore, with the basketball brouhaha temporarily swept to the sidelines during the SEA Games, Filipinos trooped to venues hosting other equally, if not, more interesting events and lent morale support to their countrymen as well as representatives from the 10 other competing teams.

Diving proved to be one of the most watched events showcasing budding Philippine sports stars capable of generating bigger waves in future games. Before awed spectators at the state-of-the-art Trace College Aquatics Center in Los Baños, Laguna, Shiela May Perez, Ceseil and Zardo Domenios, and Nino Carog flexed top caliber form in the springboard and platform events rarely seen in this basketball-and boxing-crazy nation.

Perez, who pocketed three gold medals, and the Domenios siblings, I gathered, were discovered while doing diving stunts at Sasa wharf in Davao some years back. Perez and Zardo, in fact, qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and were one of the top Asian competitors.

Five years later and polished by months of hard training in China, the troika and other RP diving team members turned out markedly improved routines, thus painting a bright future for the country in diving. Perhaps private sector sports backers should take a closer look at diving, because unlike basketball, there is no premium on height and heft.

Judging diving competitions, unlike in boxing, is not as manipulative and tainted by numerous questionable decisions. Ask Onyok Velasco about it.

Wushu, or kung-fu, gave Team Philippines the most number of golds at 11. What’s nice about the sport is that it has numerous events, like gymnastics, thereby increasing the potential gold medals for the country. Again, like diving, wushu and other non-combative events similar to kata in karate is a category where Filipinos can excel.

I can only imagine these athletes’ further progress if they get more international exposure, more government and private sector support – similar to what contact sport athletes enjoy courtesy of blue-chip businesses.

Funding and training equals victory

We can never question the natural (sometimes raw) talent, skill and determination of the Filipino athlete to excel. It is inherent in every Filipino athlete. But this cannot be the only cornerstone of our participation in future international sporting events.

As Michael Keon, training director of Team Philippines to the 23rd SEA Games, puts it, funding and training must go together if we are to succeed in sports. With adequate funding comes a more effective grassroots training and talent identification and development program.

So much for recycled, forced-out-of-retirement athletes, many of who suffered stinging defeats to rivals 10 years younger. As the old cliché goes, to the young is the future.

‘Business & Leisure’ Poker Mall Tour Finale

The Grand Finals of "Business & Leisure" Poker Mall Tour sponsored by Honda Cars Philippines will be held at Citywalk, Eastwood City mall on Saturday, 10th December 2005. Nine finalists, the top three of the three elimination games conducted the past three weeks, will compete for the coveted title of Champion of the 1st "Business & Leisure" Poker Mall Tour plus a trophy and valuable prize items courtesy of Honda Cars Philippines and other sponsors. The "shootout" starts at 6 p.m., and the audience will be treated to raffle prizes while getting a glimpse of rising Filipino poker stars.

Poker enthusiasts are also reminded that the 6th and final Leg of the ongoing Poker King Challenge series conducted by the Poker Club of the Philippines in cooperation with Pagcor, the gaming authority, will be held on 7th January 2006 at Casino Filipino Silahis. This is your last chance to qualify for the Grand Finals of the Poker King Challenge, which is scheduled on 21st January 2006 at Casino Filipino Tagaytay.

Other non-wager poker tournaments with lots of valuable prizes are scheduled in the coming weeks. Those interested to join and sharpen their skills in tournament play may visit www.PokerClubofthePhilippines.com or call the Club Secretariat (c/o Cindy) at 817-9092 or 816-6195 for details.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 4th Floor, 156 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com or at reygamboa@linkedge.biz. If you wish to view the previous columns, you may visit my website at http://bizlinks.linkedge.biz.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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