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Opinion

Not aiming for No. 1 is wrong attitude

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

I have purposely delayed writing this column until after the Tokyo Olympics, where 19 of our athletes are competing, shall have gotten underway. I didn’t want my words to get in the way of their enthusiasm, hoping most of them haven’t been affected by what some members of the team said just prior to the games’ opening. In particular, I’m miffed by what rowing entry Chris Nievarez and sprinter Kristina Knott said about competing.

 Nievarez was quoted as saying he was looking at a Top Six finish in rowing. "Target ko Top Six," Nievarez said in a story in The Philippine STAR. I find that most distressing. And Knott made it worse by saying she is shooting to breach her time of 23 seconds. She said "I no longer want to run 23s. If that's 22.9 or better, I'll take it." The Olympic record in women’s 200 is 21.34 seconds, set by Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988.

To me, an athlete has no business being at the Olympics if their goal of their participation doesn’t go beyond achieving only their personal best. This is an affront to the country's struggle to get a gold. We are already dangling an obscene P33 million for a gold and then some of our athletes aren’t really aiming for number one? Why did we send them at all?

In sports, as in the bigger game of life, one has to always strive to be number one. Of course, not everyone can be a winner. Fortune never smiles on everyone at the same time. And fate may have other plans. If everyone wins, how would losers learn? Striving to win, in Tokyo or in life, is what it's all about.

When I was the editor of this paper, I always told my reporters the secret to writing a good story. It’s always to assume one is writing a page one story, not an article for the inside pages. When you are writing for page one you always give your story your best shot.

Writing for page one drives a reporter hard after facts, build them in a manner and style that gives self-satisfaction to the writer and less pain to the editor. Earning a by-line is the bonus not unlike the gold in the Olympics. And if it ends somewhere other than page one, as often happens in the fickle world of journalism, you still have won your own self-respect.

But write as if you don’t care what page your story lands and you are just like an athlete willing to settle for sixth or improve on a personal best. I hope it’s an attitude that hasn't infected everyone. Aspiring for less than excellence can drive Olympic participation into irrelevance. Look at the Oscars. It’s no longer about excellence but race. Making "too white" blacker to conform to biases is just like going for sixth or 22.9 seconds.

Next time we start composing our delegation to the Olympics, let’s shut the door on those who merely use our resources for their own personal gain or those who already feel like losers going in. If you go thinking you’re only good for sixth, where do you place the expectations of a 109 million Filipinos in that? If you go only to better your personal best of 23 seconds, where’s the significance of the flag on your breast?

This defeatist and selfish attitude is a glaring reflection of how sorry our sporting program has become. Look at the obscene P33M we are giving our gold winner (or is it winners?). That will make Margie Didal very rich if she wins. And I would be very happy for my fellow Cebuano. But sorry to say, and with all due respect to its fans, I think a skateboarding gold just isn't worth P33M. The gold will still be appreciated without the money.

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