Change should also come to sports

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

President Duterte did two things for Philippine athletes recently. From an initial allowance of only $1,000 for each of the athletes going to the Rio Olympics, he increased it to $3,000. Then he promised to increase spending for athletes training from money to be collected from tax evaders. Whether or not the twin acts will encourage the delegation enough to win medals remains to be seen.

One thing is certain about the tripling of the allowance for Rio-bound athletes, though. The athletes will now have a really terrific time in Rio regardless of whether they win anything or not. They now have three times more money than they previously planned to spend. If only they are not expected to give their all, what a grand vacation this would have been.

In fact, allow me to throw in a little concern there. With more money in their pockets, and obvious thoughts of what a binge the money can provide, there is a distinct possibility our athletes might get distracted from what they were really going to Rio for. Not that they are expected to bring home the elusive gold or what, but they are at least expected to compete creditably.

Frankly, though, I do not see how this time will be different from all our previous frustrating bids for a credible showing in the Olympics. I have a sinking feeling that we are in for an even worse showing than maybe the last three or four outings, or when was the last time we stood on the podium. That I could not even remember suggests the forgetableness of our Olympic participation.

And while it is good that Duterte promised to provide money for training from what he expects to collect from tax evaders, you and I know how iffy that really sounds. That is all so tentative. What if the collection is little, or even none at all? It would have been so much better if a clear and sufficient fund is set aside to ensure an honest-to-goodness foray into the Olympics.

Duterte has promised that change is coming and I do not believe such change is reserved only for a few aspects of Philippine life. If Filipinos really need to feel good about themselves, if they really need to feel proud of their country, the one area that can give them that is in the field of sports. We all have seen how the exploits of Manny Pacquiao not only made us proud. For brief moments they also united us. They even eliminated crime and traffic for a day.

In the news as I write this was the selection of a young Filipino immigrant to the USA to the US Olympic badminton team. The Filipino, Paula Lynn Obanana of Dumaguete City, who immigrated with her parents to America not too long ago, will be seeing action in Rio in the badminton doubles. Her selection illustrates the kind of training she got in the US.

Obanana already saw action in several international competitions while still in the Philippines. But clearly it was during her stay in the US and the training she got while there that made her skills soar to levels acceptable for Olympic competitions. Because of such training, Obanana will not be competing for the USA and not for the Philippines.

Clearly it is the kind of training, and the discipline that comes with it, plus the right equipment and nutrition, that raise the bar for competitiveness that assures a harvest of medals. That is a reality that we all need to accept if we are to ever attain our dream of capturing our first ever gold and even more golds after that.

Maybe president Duterte, instead of just promising money to be collected from tax evaders, should set aside a definite fund that will make training for all national athletes a no-nonsense affair. After all, it is in the preparation of athletes that real dividends can be expected. It is time we abandon the stupid thinking that cash incentives are enough to make athletes perform better.

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