Quest for Olympic gold
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2018 - 12:00am

LAS VEGAS – Al Panlilio wears many hats and it’s a testament to his management skills that he is able to function effectively in meeting the demands on his time as Meralco senior vice president, SBP president, Meralco PBA governor and MVP Sports Foundation president.

Panlilio was recently in Jakarta for the Asian Games then went to New York City where among other things, he met up with NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum at the NBA head office to personally express the country’s gratitude for the pro league allowing Jordan Clarkson to suit for the Philippines. From New York City, Panlilio flew here last Friday to attend the PBA Board of Governors planning session. Last Sunday, he took a flight back to Manila. 

While abroad, Panlilio stayed in touch with PLDT/Meralco/SBP/MVP Sports Foundation chairman Manny V. Pangilinan, Meralco executives, SBP officers, co-workers and the media. Wherever he is in the world, Panlilio doesn’t miss a beat. One night in New York City, he was at a bookstore and took a call from a Filipino reporter with whom he spoke for over 30 minutes. That’s how Panlilio is. He makes time for everyone. But it’s not just business that consumes Panlilio. Family is tops in his priority list. He and wife Angela dropped their daughter off to school in Connecticut while on this recent US trip.

Panlilio said the work at the MVP Sports Foundation started in 2011 and up to August this year, over P1.2 Billion has been spent to fund athletes’ development in specific sports with the ultimate goal of delivering the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines. The funding doesn’t include basketball which is supported by Smart to the tune of roughly P65 Million a year. If you combine what has been disbursed by the Foundation and Smart for sports, the amount will easily surpass P1.5 Billion over the past seven years.

Panlilio said the dream of an Olympic gold medal is what drives MVP to bring honor to the country. Since the Philippines made its Olympic debut in 1924, the gold medal remains an elusive reward. The Philippines is second to Malaysia with the most Olympic medals but no gold. The Philippines has garnered three silver and seven bronze medals for a total of 10 while Malaysia has pocketed seven silver and four bronze medals for a total of 11.

“We’re focused on 2020 in Tokyo,” said Panlilio. “Skateboarding will be introduced as an Olympic sport in Tokyo and we’re hoping our Asian Games gold medalist Margie Didal will win the gold. We’re pinning our hopes on other sports like boxing although it’s highly politicized. In other fronts, we’re supporting cycling, particularly Ronda Pilipinas, and our campaign to participate in the Tour de France. We’re backing Caloy Yulo of gymnastics, golf, taekwondo, badminton, football, rugby, weightlifting and figure skating.”

At the Asian Games, Panlilio pointed out that over half of the medals that the Philippines captured came from MVP Sports Foundation athletes, specifically 12 of 21 medals. Topping the list was weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz who bagged the gold in the women’s 53-kilogram division. The women’s golf team of Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go hit paydirt with Saso also picking up a gold in the individual event. Didal was another Foundation athlete with a gold.

Flyweight boxer Rogen Ladon took a silver while bronze medals were claimed by more Foundation athletes Pagdanganan, BMX cyclist Danny Caluag, boxers Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial, the taekwondo men’s poomsae team of Dustin Mella, Jeordan Dominguez and Rodolfo Reyes Jr., the taekwondo women’s poomsae team of Janna Oliva, Faye Crisostomo and Rinna Babanto and taekwondo kyorugi’s Pauline Lopez.

Aside from financial support, the Foundation provides feedback and technical advice to help and improve current sports practices in NSAs. The Foundation is focused on creating long-lasting progress for specific sports through programs that elevate the athletes’ competitiveness and increase their chances to win in international meets.

“We’ve been quietly supporting our athletes since 2011,” said Panlilio. “Given their performance in the 2018 Asiad, it seems that the sports programs that we are supporting are on the right track in creating champions and world-class athletes. As a private entity on a mission driven by pure love and passion and with our battlecry ‘puso,’ the Foundation seeks to further provide support to our athletes, especially as the country prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

Panlilio was in the forefront of the project to enlist Cleveland Cavaliers’ Fil-Am guard Jordan Clarkson for the Philippines in the recent Asian Games. Clarkson missed the Philippines’ first game against Kazakhstan but saw action against China, South Korea, Japan and Syria to lead the national team to fifth place, its highest finish in 16 years.

“Our wish of having Jordan play for the Philippines became a reality in the Asian Games,” said Panlilio. “The SBP’s desire is to have him play in future competitions during the NBA break. Our goal is to come up with the best possible Philippine team, have a chance to win every tournament and ultimately, make over 100 million Filipinos happy.”

Foundation chairman MVP said, “We are definitely proud of our Asiad medalists and their wins shall further power up our desire to support Philippine sports as part of our efforts towards nation-building … we shall continue to inspire Filipinos through sports.”

ASIAN GAMES GOLD MEDAL OLYMPICS
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