WINNING the Olympic gold medal maybe an impossible dream to most athletes and even officials.
But the coronavirus-interrupted Tokyo Olympics could also present the country’s biggest hope for the gold medal in the world’s biggest sporting stage.
Ask Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) second vice president Richard Gomez.
“I think the dynamics of all sports in the world have changed a lot due to the pandemic. It’s a lot different now,” said Gomez during the special edition of the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom.
“Kung sino talaga yung atleta na magkaroon ng pagkakataon na makapag-prepare ng maaga, matagal at maayos, yun ang may malaki ang tsansa na manalo ng gold medal sa nalalapit na Olympics,” added Gomez during the weekly public service program presented by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
Gomez, also the president of the Philippine Fencing Association, said finding a way to give the national athletes the training and preparation they need may really be difficult during the pandemic, but the national sports associations should continue to do so.
“Gaya din sa ibang bansa, dito sa atin may mga lugar talaga na hindi pa din pwede kahit training sa sports. Pero kailangang hanapan natin ng paraan kung paano maka pag-training yung mga athletes natin at kung saan sila dadalhin. Importante yung bubble training na talagang istrikto,” Gomez told TOPS editors and reporters.
Gomez cited fencing as one of the sports whose athletes continue to train diligently every day in a safe and well-equipped bubble in Ormoc City — where he is the mayor — under the supervision of veteran coaches.
“Sa fencing, umaasa kami na may makakapasok sa Tokyo Olympics. We are sending our top fencers in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Uzbekistan on April 26-27. Hopefully, maging maganda yun performance natin dun. Ipag-darasal natin yan,” added Gomez, who also keeps himself busy as Mayor of Ormoc City.
Gomez recalled that Walter Torres earned the distinction as the only Filipino fencer to make it to the Olympics when he represented the country in Barcelona in 1992
“After Walter, wala na tayong naipadalang fencers sa Olympics. Pero itong mga pupunta sa OQT sa Tashkent sa April 21, magagaling talaga at nakapaghanda ng maayos dito sa Ormoc sa tulong na din ng PSC,” said Gomez, himself a gold medal winner in fencing in the Asian Masters.
He said 2019 Southeast Asian Games women’s individual sabre gold medalist Jylyn Nicanor and men’s individual epee bronze medalist Noelito Jose should have solid shots at qualifying in Tashkent.
The other three Filipino bidders are Christian Jester Concepcion in the men’s saber category, Hanniel Abella in women’s epee and Nathaniel Perez in foil.
Concepcion and Abella both earned silver medals in their respective events in Manila in 2019.
Another fencing hope, Samantha Catantan, is currently training in the Penn State University in the United States.
A proven competitor in practically all sports he tried in his younger years, Gomez assured that all five Filipino fencers will do their best in Tashkent.
“Alam ko mabigat din talaga ang laban dun. They have to win all their games pagdating sa direct eliminations. Isang slot lang ang pag-lalabanan ng bawat weapon. Dapat talaga sila ang mag- champion,” explained Gomez, also the president of the Philippine Modern Pentathlon Association.
Asked about the coming SEA Games scheduled Nov. 21-Dec. 2 in Vietnam, Gomez and national team coach Amat Canlas expressed confidence about the Filipinos’ chances to improve their 2-2-7 gold-silver-bronze medal haul in Manila in December, 2019.
“Actually, gusto talaga naming ma-surpass yun achievements natin sa nakaraang SEA Games. Yun Vietnam tuloy-tuloy lang ang training nyan at lumalabas pa ng bansa nila. Pero tiwala ako sa mga coaches natin dahil magagaling. We just need a lot of training time. Sa fencing, kung minsan, pag maganda ang gising mo, maganda din ang galaw mo.”
Before Manila, the Filipino fencers bagged one gold, three silvers and two bronzes in the 2017 SEA Games.
Gomez thanked the PSC, headed by Chairman Butch Ramirez, for supporting the national fencing team’s bubble training in Ormoc.
“Salamat talaga sa PSC dahil pinayagan nila kami at binigyan kami ng budget para sa bubble training ng national team dito sa amin sa Ormoc,” explained Gomez, who tapped coach Canlas to supervise the training
“More than 20 fencers are here for bubble training in Ormoc for more than two months now. In fact, some of them are already going home today. Yung iba, like Noelito, Jylyn at mga kasama nila, pagka-uwi ng Manila diretso naman sa Tashkent.”
“I think very significant ang naging training nila dito for more than two months. Nakatutuwa nga dahil sila mismo binantayan ang sarili nila na hindi sila magka-sakit. Thankfully, walang na-infect na mga fencers dito sa Ormoc.
Gomez admitted Manila remains the perfect venue for training, but that the surge in coronavirus cases is a cause for concern.
“Maganda sana kung sa Manila ang training dahil mas madaming fencers ang makasasali.”
Canlas,on the other hand, said fencers who could represent the country in the coming SEA Games, are also benefitting a lot from the Ormoc bubble.
“Sabi ko nga president (Gomez), we have nothing to lose in this training camp in Ormoc,”said Canlas.
“Most of the of the national team members who won medals for the country in the previous SEA Games are training in Ormoc City. We play scrimmage (pre-fencing) with fencers going to Tashkent. Kaya it’s really a good experience for all.”