‘Siklab Atleta’ focuses on Olympic gold
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The goal is to produce the first Filipino Olympic gold medalist and Siklab Atleta/Pilipinas Sports Foundation executive director Chito Salud said the other day a P1 Billion budget will be raised through presidential adviser on sports Dennis Uy of Phoenix Petroleum to fund the initial four-year Olympic cycle.

Salud, the former PBA commissioner, said the timetable to hit paydirt is eight years to cover two Olympic cycles. The yearly budget is P250 Million for the first Olympic cycle and the target is to support about 10 athletes from selected sports. Excluded are athletes from sports that are well-funded, like boxing.

“We’re focusing on individual, not team, sports,” said Salud. “At the moment, we’re looking at shooting, archery, cycling, athletics and weightlifting. The list of athletes won’t be permanent, meaning athletes may come in, drop out and be replaced. It will depend on performance and how they do in training. When our athletes compete in the Olympics, we want them to be ready to win the gold, nothing less. No excuses. They’ll be well-trained and well-prepared. We won’t make excuses like jet-lag or lack of funding or insufficient foreign exposure or whatever.”

Salud said he has started consultations with NSA heads on candidates for Siklab Atleta. He has also conferred with officials of the PSC and POC. It is Salud’s responsibility to conduct due diligence on the athletes and recommend to the Siklab Atleta Executive Board whom the foundation will support.

“We’re also looking at sports with weight classifications,” he said. “We’re selecting athletes to prepare them for the Olympics. We’re not sending athletes who’re praying they won’t end up last. We’re going all out to support our chosen elite athletes and put them in a position where they can perform to win our first Olympic gold medal.”

Before the Rio Games last year, the Philippines held the dubious distinction of capturing the most Olympic medals without a gold. But after Rio, Malaysia went on top of the list with 11 Olympic medals without a gold, leaving the Philippines in second place with 10 medals consisting of three silvers and seven bronzes. Malaysia brought in four silvers and a bronze from Rio to raise its total to seven silvers and four bronzes. Others in the list include Moldova, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka. There are 73 countries that have never won an Olympic medal and the list includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Bolivia, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Turkmenistan.

In Rio, 10 countries claimed their first Olympic gold medal – Bahrain (with a naturalized Kenyan in the 3,000-meter steeplechase), Kuwait (double-trap shooting), Kosovo (men’s 52 kilogram judo), Singapore (men’s 100-meter butterfly swimming), Puerto Rico (ladies singles tennis), Jordan (men’s 68 kilogram taekwondo), Tajikistan (hammer throw), Vietnam (10-meter air pistol), Ivory Coast (men’s 80 kilogram taekwondo) and Fiji (rugby sevens).

Two athletes in line for Siklab Atleta support are pole vaulter E. J. Obiena, 21, and Rio Olympic silver medalist (women’s 53 kilogram weightlifting) Hidilyn Diaz, 26. Obiena claimed the silver at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games and holds the national pole vault record. Diaz, a veteran of three Olympics, is aiming for the gold at the Tokyo Games in 2020.

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