President to lead well-wishers as 1,000-plus PH athletes gather
LESS than a month before plunging into action in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Team Philippines numbering more than a thousand will gather under one roof in a joyous get-together on Nov. 13 with President Duterte coming to wish the athletes, coaches and officials good luck.
The President is expected to spend some time with the contingent and make remarks during the afternoon affair where an array of Filipino sporting greats led by Olympic boxing silver medalist Onyok Velasco, bowler Paeng Nepomuceno and sprinter Lydia de Vega will share centerstage as they will tell their own stories of triumphs.
Another bowling icon in Bong Coo and SEA Games multiple gold medalist Elma Muros-Posadas are also coming to share the secrets of their success in the send-off which the organizing Philippine Sports Commission dubbed as “Team Philippines Send-off ng Bayan”.
According to PSC chairman and Team PH chef de mission Butch Ramirez, more than 1,000 athletes vying in 56 sports in the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 regional sporting showpiece will show up for the get-together set at the newly-refurbished Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
It will be the last time the local athletes will get together before they assemble again on Nov. 30 for the opening ceremonies of the 11-nation, 12-day meet where they are expected to run away with the overall title for the second time in the long, rich history of the Games.
Losing the overall fight on its home soil is like dying for Team PH. That’s why top sports officials are not leaving anything to chance.
With money the least of its worries, the PSC has sent a lot of national teams to all corners of the globe for training and participation in tough tournaments, something it hopes will bring good dividends like in 2005 when the country emerged No. 1.
“Of course we’ll target the overall title. We’ve spent a lot of money for training and it’s only fair we aspire to become No. 1 again,” Ramirez had told a gathering of sportswriters a few months ago.
The government agency in sports has a war chest of over a billion peso for training and participation of the SEA Games-bound PH athletes, easily the biggest ever amount earmarked for any local contingent.
“What the athletes want, the athletes get. So it’s just fair to expect them to deliver the goods,” said Daniel Aguila, a keen sports observer from Fairview.
To the 10 other competing nations, the Philippines emerging No. 1 is already clear as a summer day.
In fact, a former top Malaysian Olympic Committee official said in a Facebook post recently that the Philippines will win the overall championship because PH officials have done what they made in a triumphant hosting in 2017—add events where they are strong and delete sports where they are weak.
Meanwhile, Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP) is looking to send a big delegation when the country marches to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
SWP President Monico Puentevella said they have a deep bench of talents that could help Olympians Hidilyn Diaz and Nestor Colonia in representing the country in the Summer Games set from July 24 to August 9 next year.
Leading the charge for the local weightlifters is Vanessa Sarno, a 16-year-old prodigy who won two gold medals in the Asian Junior and Youth Championships in Pyongyang last week.
Sarno overcame the favored North Korean and Uzbek lifters in the finals, giving her a good chance of qualifying for the Summer Games this year and emerging with a medal in the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Aside from Sarno, the SWP also has Eileen Ann Ando, Kristel Macrohon and Margaret Colonia in its roster.
“We want to become the sports association with the largest number of Olympic delegates,” said Puentevella, a former Bacolod lawmaker, chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee and commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).