Wish list for 2016

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2015 - 9:00am

(First of Two Parts)

Tomorrow will bring in the new year and we’re all excited to welcome 2016 with a bang. We’re hoping for positive things to happen in Philippine sports in the coming year and here’s our list of 10 wishes.

• For Pacquiao to win on April 9 then beat Mayweather in a rematch. It’s still not known whom Manny Pacquiao will fight on April 9 and where. In the running are Timothy Bradley, Terence Crawford and Adrien Broner but Pacquiao may spring a surprise and announce an unexpected choice soon.

Whomever Pacquiao takes on, let’s hope he wins and doesn’t suffer any injury. Then, it’s off to the Senate for Pacquiao who appears to be a shoo-in at the May polls. Before the year ends, we’re praying for Pacquiao to meet Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a rematch and this time, “Money” will taste his first pro defeat. That will be Pacquiao’s farewell fight and should generate a windfall to keep his bank account healthy for a lifetime. Pacquiao is now 37 and should seriously consider to retire from the ring. It makes no sense for Pacquiao to risk permanent damage by continuing to fight. He’s worked hard to earn what he has and he deserves to enjoy his wealth with his faculties intact. Besides, the Senate is waiting. Two more fights for Pacquiao in 2016 will bring his boxing career to a dramatic close.

• For the Philippines to win the bid to host one of three FIBA Olympic qualifiers which Gilas will top to advance to Rio. Only six countries remain in contention to host the three Olympic qualifiers on July 4-10. If the Philippines wins, the next available highest finisher – Lebanon – at the recent FIBA Asia Championships will join the 18 countries competing in the qualifiers. The FIBA Executive Committee will decide the winning bidders on Jan. 19 and a “modified” draw will be conducted to situate the 18 teams at the House of Basketball in Mies, near Geneva, Switzerland on Jan. 26.

It will be tall order for the Philippines to win the Olympic qualifying tournament but if Manila hosts, the hometown crowd – the sixth man – will be a factor in fueling the Gilas drive. The Philippines hasn’t qualified for basketball at the Olympics since 1972. If coach Tab Baldwin succeeds in guiding the Philippines to the top of the Olympic qualifiers, the country will return to play in the Olympics after 44 years. The wish isn’t just to win the bid to host but also to top the Olympic qualifiers to go to Rio.

• For at least 10 Filipinos to qualify for the Rio Olympics and the Philippines to finally strike gold. Two Filipinos have so far qualified – 400-meter hurdler Eric Cray and 53 kilogram weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz. PSC chairman Richie Garcia said he estimates eight Filipinos will compete in Rio while POC first vice president and Olympic chef de mission Joey Romasanta said he expects at least eight and a maximum of 12, discounting the possibility of Gilas qualifying. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Philippine delegation listed 15 athletes and at the 2012 London Games, the list dwindled to 11.

Aside from outright qualification, the POC and PSC are hoping for invitation tickets to be allocated to the country’s 12 Olympic Solidarity scholars in taekwondo, shooting, golf, canoeing, swimming and boxing.  The Philippines has never captured an Olympic gold medal since joining the event in 1924. It’s our wish for the country to make a breakthrough in Rio.

• For POC and PSC to continue their harmonious relationship. With Jose Cojuangco, Jr. as POC president and Garcia as PSC chairman, there has been close coordination in making positive things happen for Philippine sports during their term. This year, with the arrival of a new President, Garcia will step down as a Malacanang appointee. The new President will name his or her choice as PSC chairman. Garcia, however, can’t be discounted as a candidate. After all, he’s done a solid job at the helm and he’s served under three Presidents Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino.

Cojuangco may run for a fourth term when the POC holds its elections after the Rio Olympics in November. It appears that Cojuangco continues to enjoy the confidence of the NSAs voting for the president. No matter who is voted as POC president and who is named as the new PSC chairman, the wish is for them to work together closely for the betterment of Philippine sports and Filipino athletes. The partnership should lead the Philippines to host more international events to expose Filipino athletes to world-class competition before the homecrowd.

• For a new training center to rise at the Clark Freeport. Both Cojuangco and Garcia support the plan to construct an athletes’ training center at the Clark Freeport. A 50-hectare property has been identified for the purpose but there seems to be some hemming and hawing on the part of the Clark International Airport Corp. Garcia said operating the center won’t be a business proposition and there will be no events staged at the hub. No seats for spectators will be provided in the facility.

The PSC plans to undertake major repairs to make the 81-year-old Rizal Memorial Sports Complex more serviceable but that will be a parallel course of action with the move to Clark. Discussing the construction of a training center has been a favorite pastime for years. Now, it’s time to walk the talk.

Happy New Year to one and all!



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