Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez has set the tone for his training as he eyes a comeback in fencing, a sport that earned him a gold medal in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games.
But it is not intended to gain a spot with the squad that is preparing for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) and SEA Games this year.
Rather, the actor, well-known sportsman and public servant has plunged into his mission for a stint at the Asian Masters Fencing Championship.
“I’m looking at the Asian Masters this year,” said Gomez.
Gomez took the gold mint with the epee men’s team during the 2005 biennial meet the country hosted.
The last time he suited up for the national team was when a 49-year-old Gomez bagged a gold medal in the 50-under category during the first Asian Masters Fencing Championships here.
Since then, he devoted his time to his constituents.
His passion in fencing continued, especially for its progress as he became the president of the Philippine Fencing Association (PFA). Under his watch the national team won two gold medals in the 2019 SEA Games.
Now, five of the six Filipino fencers competing in the OQT next month in Seoul, South Korea, and 11 other prospects for the SEA Games Philippine Fencing Team are in a bubble training camp he set up in Ormoc City.
The presence of current national team members allows Gomez to train with the younger fencers. He also gives them pointers on what to improve for the upcoming OQT.
“The qualifier in the Olympics is a very tough competition,” said Gomez, who participated in a similar qualifier for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“During our time it was tougher because all countries that weren’t able to earn an Olympic spot were there in the qualifier. Now the OQT is for the Asian region, which is still tough,” he said.
“Kaya dapat preparado talaga yung mga fencers natin, tumutulong tayo, sinasabi natin sa mga athletes saan puwede na mag-improve (That’s why it’s important that our fencers are well prepared, and we’re helping them, we tell our athletes where they need to improve).”
“Binibigyan namin sila ng mga scenarios, different situations on how they should react in our pre-fencing (We give them scenarios, different situations on how they should react in our pre-fencing),” Gomez added.
Amat Canlas, head coach of the national team and former teammate of Gomez, said it’s a big boost for the fencers to get it straight from someone like Gomez, who has been there as an athlete.
“Nabibigyan niya ng tip yung mga atleta natin, kasi siya mismo nadaanan niya as athlete (He gives tip to our athletes, because he went through the same process as an athlete),” Canlas said, who himself was a gold medalist in the 2005 SEA Games with the men’s foil team.
Gomez, Canlas, and former fencing national team mentor Benny Garcia – now a sports consultant in Ormoc City – are working closely to improve the skills of the fencers training for the OQT and SEA Games.
As for the 54-year-old Gomez’s comeback bid, he said that to be able to compete through pre-fencing with the young fencers allows him to rediscover his own skills, and prepare for the Masters.
To get ready for that tournament, he had his new pair of jacket and breeches uniform that former national team member Harlene Orendain Raguin made and shipped to Gomez.
As for his game, Gomez said he’s getting there.
“Kaya pa naman… ang importante maman nakakapag-lunges pa tayo (I can still do it. The important thing is I can still do lunges,” said Gomez with a laugh, referring to a quick offensive move that stretches the legs and arms towards an opponent to get a score.
Gomez said he is waiting for an announcement from the FIE, or the International Fencing Federation, on the schedule of the Asian Masters, although one thing is sure – he will be joining a higher category.
That is in the age category.
“Sa 60-under na tayo,” Gomez said.