DECEMBER 21, 2006
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - From the Southeast Asian Games to the Asian Games and now the Olympics.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez yesterday received a fresh mandate from President Arroyo and was asked to focus in helping the country win its first Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.

The President issued the direct order to Ramirez as she handed out P13.5 million in cash incentives to the Filipino athletes who won four gold, six silver and nine bronze medals in the recent Doha Asian Games.

It was the best finish by the Philippines in the Asian Games since 1962. And it came barely a year after the Filipino athletes won the overall title in the SEA Games for the first time in history.

Now the President, as well as First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, wants an Olympic gold. And she wants Ramirez, who had planned to step down as PSC chairman this year, to be the man in charge.

"We’re on to the Olympics, Butch," the President told the PSC chairman in a running conversation as the victorious athletes lined up at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang to receive their cash bonuses.

"So, will I continue to work Ma’m?" asked Ramirez.

"Yes, Butch" the President replied.

"It was very short, very brief. But for me that was a fresh mandate. So, I told the President ‘I am committed to serve you and to serve our country and to continue our campaign,’" Ramirez said.

"And again, I told the President ’I will continue to serve you Ma’m.’ And she said ‘Sige (Alright), Butch.’ And she was smiling. The President was in good spirits," Ramirez said.

"For me that’s a fresh mandate. And I will continue to work until the Olympics. Now that we have the blessings from the President, my work, my renewed strength starts today," the PSC chairman added.

Despite his excellent batting average in the recent SEA Games and Asian Games, Ramirez has not been spared from criticisms, which have made him think of resigning.

"My work continues. Now, I will not be bothered by the distractions anymore," he said.

Blueprint for winning 1st Olympic gold bared The Philippine Star 12/20/2006

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez yesterday laid out the blueprint on how the Philippines can win that elusive gold medal in the Olympics.

Ramirez said the preparations for the Philippine participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics will start as soon as possible, preferably by March next year.

He said Filipino athletes who will be identified as potential medalists in the Olympics will be made to train in countries noted for their respective disciplines.

"Our fencers and divers will have to stay in China, the taekwondo jins and archers in Korea, the karatedos in Italy or Iran. Our boxers can stay here but they need a Cuban coach and get the needed international exposure," said Ramirez.

These athletes have gone through the same training for the Manila SEA Games last year and the Doha Asian Games just recently. What would make it different this time is the length of their stay.

"This time, if they need to stay in China for one or one-and-a-half years, they will stay there. They will be based there while training, and will only leave China when there are international tournaments elsewhere.

"They have to immerse themselves with the Chinese athletes, where they train. They would be with the Chinese athletes, eat with them. If you want to beat the Koreans, you must eat kimchi (the spicy Korean delicacy)," Ramirez explained.

Ramirez said these athletes will take their longest "break" from their China training when they compete in the 24th SEA Games in Thailand in December where the Philippines will try to defend the overall title.

While in Doha, the PSC chairman said he noticed some Filipino athletes were still in awe of their foreign counterparts.

Ramirez cited the women’s beach volleyball pair of Heidi Ilustre and Diane Pascua, or tennis players Cecil Mamiit and Erik Taino as good examples of how our athletes should act.

"Being Fil-Americans, they were not intimidated even in defeat. They have this certain attitude an athlete needs," Ramirez explained.

The PSC chief said First Gentleman Mike Arroyo has already pledged his full support to the Filipino athletes who will compete in the Beijing Olympics.

The First Gentleman will once again lead a pledging session to raise the millions needed for the Beijing campaign.

"The First Gentleman is so focused in winning that Olympic gold," Ramirez added.

"We will defend our standing in the SEA Games. But even if we finish third, fourth or fifth in Thailand, what’s important is for us to win that elusive gold in the Olympics," Ramirez said.

"That’s what President Arroyo wants." — Abac Cordero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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