Despite feeling homesick, PH fencers continue training
Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Hanniel Abella said ‘boredom’ and longing for family members are things that stranded athletes have to deal with at the Philsports Complex (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig City.
However, the 27-year-old Abella said time spent training keeps them busy since the government’s implementation of a lockdown last March 15 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Walang ibang gagawin, training lang kami dito,” Abella told the Manila Bulletin.
“Siyempre nakakalungkot din kasi nakaka-miss ang family, matagal na din namin silang hindi nakikita. Pero ang bilis din ng araw; ang tagal na din pala namin nandito.”
The fencers only use the hallway of the quarters since the Fencing Hall is not available. The athletes also walk and jog at the vicinity, but not in the area near the basketball court since the venue has been transformed into a medical facility for COVID-19 patients.
TV sets have also been provided by the Philippine Sports Commission at the hallway for athletes, as well as access to wifi has been made available but only for limited time.
The amenities, notwithstanding, the athletes were initially worried for their safety from the deadly virus.
“Natakot din kami noong una, pero since malayo naman, saka hindi naman basta makakapasok or makakapunta dito, OK naman kaming mga athletes,” said Abella, who added that they had swab tests, which came back negative last week.
Abella is one of three fencers living at the PSC facility. The other two are Kimberly Camahalan and Noelito Jose, who, like Abella, is part of the six-man national team to next year’s Asian Championship in South Korea.
The event serves as the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for next year’s 2020 Tokyo Games.
A total of 22 athletes from different sports are currently staying at the Pasig quarters, most of them stranded and unable to return to their respective provinces because of travel restrictions.
For instance, Camahalan is from Zamboanga City.
Although both Abella and Jose come from nearby areas of Angono, Rizal and Valenzuela City, respectively, they chose to stay at Philsports to be with Korean coaches Kim Seung Jun and Park Sang Sun.
“Wala din kasi silang makakasama ditto sa ULTRA kung uuwi kami. So choice na namin na mag-stay. Saka kasi talaga nung una pa, dito na kami inabutan tapos hindi kami pwedeng lumabas,” said Abella.
“Kaya maganda rin kasi nakatutok sila sa amin, araw araw nate-train nila kami. Although sana mapayagan na yung actual training na may nakakalaban, now kasi bawal. So maski nakakapag-training kami ngayon, parang may kulang pa din.”
The PSC is planning to disinfect the quarters and other training facilities in ULTRA, but that means the stranded athletes need to vacate the area to give way for athletes with OQTs next year.
Aside from Jose and Abella, who won gold medal in the epee women’s team event with Mickyle Bustos, Anna Estimada and Harlene Raguin, other fencers in the OQT are Chris Jester Concepcion, Nathaniel Perez, Samantha Catantan and Jylyn Nicanor, SEAG gold medalist in the women’s singles foil event.