ANALYSIS: Troubled NSAs stymie progress of Phl sports

- Gerry Carpio - The Philippine Star


The country’s deterioration in sports is apparent in the SEA Games, a 10-nation multi-event biennial competition where the Philippines finished third in its debut in 1977, took second overall as host in 1991 and first overall also as host in 2005.

Now Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia have eased the Philippines out of the top 5 in the SEAG. The Philippines is now in the lower half of the overall standings, in the company of Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar and Timor Leste.

What a shame for a country which certainly doesn’t deserve to be in that league at the ASEAN level.

During the last two SEA Games, the Philippines was outperformed by Vietnam and Singapore. In 2009, it suffered its worst finish since 1977 – sixth place – because of poor showings from problem-riddled NSAs and other traditional sources of gold like swimming, billiards and bowling and other sports like table tennis, sepak takraw and badminton which are perennial losers in the SEAG.

One of the most telling blows to Philippine sports was dealt by the cycling association. The association had two presidents between 2005 and 2011. One “rebel” group had as many as five who, unable to find a way out of the crisis, stumbled over one another in their haste to resign. The infighting reached a point when the cyclists of the rebel group were not allowed to compete in the tournament of the other.

Since the national trials were conducted by the POC-accredited NSA, other cyclists, who were actually licensed professionals and more qualified, did not participate. In the SEA Games, the POC amateur cyclists were in turn not allowed by the International Cycling Federation to participate because they lacked a license.

Coming back home, both presidents conducted their own separate tournament to determine players for their next international competitions. They scheduled them on the same day. Again cyclists were made to choose, between a UCI (international cycling federation)-sanctioned tournament that would earn them a license and UCI points to see action in professional competitions abroad in the future and a tournament where the qualifiers will get allowances as POC accredited amateur athletes.

The Senate inquired into the problem. It gave up and surmised it could best be resolved internally.

The problem was deeper than that what it appears to be.

It had, actually started as far back as over eight years ago when the nationals were disbarred from the national team for joining the Pagcor squad. The animosity among coaches and athletes came to a boil about four years ago when a member of the board who owned a bike shop allegedly put on sale a hi-tech bike intended for an athlete. The official reportedly offered a regular bicycle from his shop while waiting for the item that was to come from the Philippine Sports Commission. When the bike, which is the standard, high-prized imported version, came, it was turned over to the shop.

The cyclist questioned why she was issued a commercial bike when what she needed was a hi-tech imported bike to improve her performance. Before she knew it, the cyclist was among the national cyclists unceremoniously cut off from the national pool. The cyclist filed an action with the Ombudsman for graft.

Unknown to the presidents, the long intramurals among lower officials, coaches and athletes were already causing a dearth in the national pool. Cyclists who were earlier trained on the tracks took their bikes to road races which offered cash prizes. 

All seemed back to normal when the two presidents agreed on one team for the 2011 Games. But there remained questions of favoritism as the new national coaches showed preference for their own former cyclists.

With the two presidents finally coming to terms, the newly -recognized president, Tagaytay Mayor Bambol Tolentino, embarked on a training program. But the old reliables won’t come back or are already over the hill. Over 10 years have gone by without serious training. In their place are new faces who have yet to be trained properly and intensively to participate in world qualifying tournaments to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

They had only a few months left, while top athletes in Europe and the US had already trained and competed the last four years in the world’s top tournaments like the World Cup and World Championships and road races like the Tour de France.

So in the London Games, the Philippines was not represented in the track and road races. But cycling got a reprieve with the addition of a new event – BMX cycling – and it took a Fil-American from halfway round the world to come to the rescue.

Danny Caluag, who trained in the US out of his own passion for the sport, answered the summons of the land of his Filipino parents to compete in London for the Philippine flag. He might as well be the spark cycling needs to get back on the road and in the fast lane again. (To be continued)

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