POC won’t endorse ABAP training trip

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr. yesterday said as a matter of principle, he won’t endorse the ABAP training trip to the US for PSC support because it comes in poor timing and the probability of the boxers overcoming jetlag to get ready for the Olympic qualifier in China starting March 25 is doubtful.

PSC chairman Richie Garcia, meanwhile, clarified that the government agency has not approved the trip pending POC endorsement. “There are certain procedures we follow in approving financial assistance,” he said. “The normal process of requesting financial assistance by an NSA is to first get POC endorsement. Without the POC endorsement, the PSC can’t act on a request. If for some reason, a request is forwarded to the PSC without POC endorsement and we find validity in the request, we will discuss the matter with the POC and try to convince each other of our position. Otherwise, if the request has no POC endorsement, we won’t act on it.”

Garcia said in his own opinion, the trip may be counterproductive. “Honestly, I feel the timing isn’t right,” he said. “The group is travelling to three different cities. There is a time change going and coming. Even when you go to the US on vacation, you’ll need time to adjust. When I go to the US to play golf, I won’t step on the greens until after a few days adjusting to the time zone. Our boxers will be sparring in the US so they’ll be tired. Add to that will be their bodies adjusting to time change.”

Garcia said the 18-day ABAP trip was taken up in the last PSC Board meeting. “The documentation for the request lacked POC endorsement so we couldn’t act on it and put it on hold,” he said.

Cojuangco said he’s not against overseas training. “The POC realizes the importance of overseas training and the hiring of the right foreign coaches,” he said. “We’re not endorsing the ABAP trip only because of the time element. If this trip was made earlier so that our fighters are able to recover from jetlag ahead of the Olympic qualifier, then we would’ve endorsed it.”

Cojuangco said it’s no joke motoring from San Francisco, the ABAP team’s port of entry, to Oakland to Los Angeles to Las Vegas then back to Los Angeles for the return flight to Manila. It will take a toll on the boxers’ condition.

Cojuangco said he explained the POC’s position to ABAP president Ricky Vargas. “I questioned the timing and Ricky understood my position,” he said. “Boxing is our bright hope for an Olympic medal. That’s why we are carefully looking into what is being done to qualify as many boxers as possible to Rio.”

Vargas said the POC, PSC and ABAP share the same goal. “God willing, we’ll qualify several fighters,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a situation where we want to do everything we can to improve our chances of qualifying. This could be our last hurrah. We know that in the end, we at ABAP are accountable. We were faced with the option of training in the US and we thought it would be an alternative to just sparring with each other at home. We know from experience that our Gilas players are able to adjust quickly to different time zones with a limited schedule. We respect the POC’s and PSC’s views. We understand their reservations. But because of the opportunity to train with top-notch, Olympic-style fighters in the US, we decided to go ahead with the trip on the recommendation of our sports scientists whose perspective we trust.”

The sports scientists are sports psychologist Marcus Manalo, performance analyst Jeff Pagaduan, nutritionist Arabella Ripoll, strength and conditioning coach Mavic Limbaga and sports science expert Eski Ripoll. They recently crafted a seven-point program for ABAP leading to the first of four Olympic qualifying windows on March 25. A critical element in the program is overseas training.

Vargas said his mindset is to do all he can for the team to bring honor to the country. “We’ve weighed the pros and cons of the US trip and we felt we couldn’t pass up this chance,” he said. “We understand the POC’s position as it impacts not only on ABAP but other NSAs. We are grateful to Cong. Peping for always looking out for us. We are all united in our goal to qualify as many athletes as we can to Rio and to win that elusive gold. Unity is essential in our quest.”

The ABAP delegation of 14 fighters, four coaches, executive director Ed Picson and AIBA international technical official Karina Picson left Manila for San Francisco last Wednesday night. Picson has arranged sparring sessions for the fighters in Oakland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas with highly-experienced amateur boxing coaches, including Angelo Merino and Joe Sanders.

Before departing, Picson said the fighters will follow a strict diet outlined by Arabella Ripoll during the trip. “No fast food,” he said. “Each fighter is now about a kilo over their weight limit which is just about right. We’ve arranged for proper food to be delivered to where we’ll be staying in each stop. We’ll do the bayanihan system and our Filipino friends will take care of bringing the food specified by our nutritionist.”

The delegation will be back in Manila on March 15. The fighters will leave to compete in the Olympic qualifier in China on March 23, or eight days after, and the first bout is scheduled on March 25.

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