Philippine sports for the win

Published January 29, 2021, 10:00 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Moving forward

By Ramon Rafael Bonilla

The coronavirus spares no one, and the contagion that has kept us wondering and wishing for the end of this dark road has only gotten potent, no thanks to a new variant that is as savage but more infectious. As the world thirsts for the dose of invincibility, it becomes clear that there is hope and the storm may soon vanish.

One that was immobilized to a complete halt in the beginning of the pandemic is the sporting scene. Not even the biggest names in sports were left untouched by the menace, nor the best-equipped gym was deemed too guarded.

Tokyo Olympics 2020? It was moved to a new schedule in July. Japan, a first-world country with tons of resources, is on the edge of pushing through with the spectacle, postponing the event to another date, or calling it off altogether and instead move on to the next showpiece: the Paris Games in 2024.

Gymnast Carlos Yulo

The cancellation of the Olympics was a bitter pill for some, an opportunity for others.

While it seemed like the uncertainty that clouds the Tokyo Games is an impending disaster for those who have qualified, it is an avenue for other Filipinos to complete their mission of joining the flight to the ultra-modern country.

Here in the Philippines, we have four Filipinos who have earned their tickets to Tokyo: boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno, pole vault star EJ Obiena, and gymnast Carlos Yulo.

These athletes have poured everything on the table, day and night, to achieve the Olympic dream. Winning the medal is another thing, with the country still pinning its faith that Tokyo is where we finally capture the elusive gold medal.

Pole vault star EJ Obiena

For other hopefuls, the strongest are boxer Nesthy Petecio, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, and golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan. Also worth noticing are judoka Kiyomi Watanabe and karateka Junna Tsukii.

Backing up the needs of these athletes is the Philippine Sports Commission, which had just celebrated its 31st anniversary on Jan 24, Sunday.

The sports agency was battered, left and right, in 2020. The budget of the PSC was realigned to the relief efforts against the effects of Covid-19, while strict protocols that grounded the movement of national teams have made it complicated for athletes who aspire to make the Olympic grade. But with its chairman William Ramirez steering the wheel through bad times, the PSC was able to survive the rough sail.

Boxer Eumir Marcial

Training innovations were put in place. Allowances, which were earlier slashed to half due to belt-tightening measures, were reverted back. The PSC has also arranged a three-month camp inside a world-class facility in Laguna.

Leagues have also taken a step forward to normalcy. The PBA had a successful run inside a bubble in Clark, while golf saw its restart with a tournament in Cavite. There’s also the 3×3 basketball in Calamba, and the boxing events in Cebu, GenSan, and Laguna. In the international scene, golfers Saso and Pagdanganan turned heads in the women’s circuit, while Obiena bannered the flag in Europe with impressive performances.

The world will never be the same, thanks to the virus that has reshaped the landscape of sports. While Covid-19 has placed an indelible mark in history, it is also the time when Filipinos, athletes or not, took resiliency as a battlecry to survive this nightmare.