Sports ties with Germany

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2021 - 12:00am

The other day, I spoke about the Philippines’ journey to the 2020+1 Tokyo Olympics and the future of sports in the country before the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a zoom webinar. The Chamber’s executive director Dr. Martin Henkelmann invited me to share my thoughts after listening to a similar talk I delivered for the Rotary Club of Manila a month ago.

I mentioned that in 21 Olympic appearances since 1924, the Philippines has brought home a total of three silver and seven bronze medals without a single gold. That means the Philippines has landed a podium finish in only 38 percent of its Olympic outings, a stark contrast to Thailand’s experience. Thailand has bagged at least a medal in 10 of its 16 Olympic forays since 1952 with a total haul of nine gold, eight silver and 16 bronze. Thailand’s nine gold medals came from only two sports – women’s weightlifting with five and boxing with four. The results indicate that Thailand has zeroed in on weight-classified sports where Thais are able to excel.

The Philippine government budget for the Olympics is P250 million, including the P20 million used in bubble training for boxing, karate and taekwondo athletes at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba early this year. So far, the Philippines has qualified seven athletes to Tokyo, four from boxing, one from athletics, one from women’s weightlifting and one from gymnastics with more coming from athletics, golf, swimming, taekwondo, skateboarding, judo and karate. The target is to send 15 to 20 athletes to the Olympics. The PSC is funding qualifiers and aspirants training in Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Turkey and Italy and hopefuls competing in Olympic qualifiers all over the world.

In the open forum, Dr. Henkelmann asked if there could be a way to connect Filipino and German athletes in cooperative programs. Germany brought in 425 athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympics and collected 17 gold, 10 silver and 15 bronze medals for fifth place overall behind the US, UK, China and Russia. In Olympic history, Germany has bagged 190 gold medals with at least 10 coming from canoeing, equestrian, rowing, athletics, cycling, gymnastics, swimming and shooting. I mentioned the perfect German ambassador of sports would be basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki. If a visit by Nowitzki to Manila could be arranged, he would be the catalyst in organizing a sports collaborative program between Germany and the Philippines.

A question was asked how the delay in staging the Tokyo Olympics may impact the performance of Filipino qualifiers. I said if the Olympics were held as scheduled last year, the Philippines would’ve probably qualified about 10 athletes. But the postponement has given more Filipino athletes the chance to prepare, train and compete in qualifiers so that there could be 15 to 20 representing the country in Tokyo. I was asked to make a bold prediction on how the Philippines will fare and I said my fearless forecast is a harvest of one gold, one silver and one bronze with gymnastics, boxing, golf and weightlifting the sports that could deliver.

Someone asked if the expectation is Olympic results may not be record-shattering because there will be no audience to pump up the athletes. I said that could be but I’m hopeful that athletes will do their best to overachieve not only to bring honor to their countries but also to make a statement that sports can unify mankind in peace, fellowship and camaraderie to defy this pandemic, to score a triumph of the human spirit in the face of global adversity created by an unseen enemy. I also spoke about the importance of Filipino athletes attaining consistency to excel beyond the record achievements at the 2019 SEA Games and how the PSC and POC leaders are on track in steering Philippine sports towards the right direction with programs such as Batang Pinoy, Palarong Pambansa and the Philippine National Games, laws creating the National Sports Training Center and Philippine High School for Sports and initiatives to promote school sports, grassroots development, early talent identification and international exposure for elite performers with an emphasis on scientific and technological support in strength, conditioning, nutrition and psychology.

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