THE deadly coronavirus pandemic may have slowed down the trainings and preparations of the Filipino athletes to the Tokyo Olympics and the Southeast Asian Games, but it surely did not affect their determination to bring honors to the country.
In fact, the challenges of the time provide them with the inspiration to win here, there and everywhere.
“I have faith in our Filipino athletes. They’ll deliver and make us proud,” said Commissioner Charles Raymond Maxey of the Philippine Sports Commission during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Thursday.
“In Tokyo, we’re confident we can send more participants and surpass the 13 athletes who competed in Rio in 2016. We already have nine qualifiers right now and there could be more,” said Maxey during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“I do not want to predict the number of medals that we can win in the Olympics or the SEA Games. I do not know if we can even defend the overall championship in the SEA Games, especially with the host scrapping so many events na malakas tayo like arnis. Realistically speaking, mahirap. Parang 39 events lang ngayon. But I believe in the fighting spirit of the Filipino athletes. Laban pa din.”
A highly-respected sports editor in Davao before his appointment as one of the commissioners of the PSC, Maxey said the government sports agency is doing everything possible to ensure that national athletes will get the proper training and exposure they need despite the liited budget due to the pandemic.
He said that everything is set for the bubble training camp of at least five sports, namely athletics, boxing, karate, muay thai and kickboxing at the Athletic Bowl in Baguio City.
“Commissioner Mon (Fernandez), who is the chef de mission to Vietnam, and I just visited Teacher’s Camp in Baguio last weekend to check on the facilities which can be used by our athletes. We’re hoping to start by late June or early July,” Maxey told sports editors and writers of TOPS.
“We checked the Barrows Hall and multi-purpose gym. Right now, we have about 63 rooms dahil na din sa mga restrictions at social distancing in each room. Tinignan namin ni Comm. Mon ang lahat ng facilities. Hinihintay namin ang pagdating ng mga atleta,” explained Maxey.
“Yung ibang sports naman, iba-ibang lugar yung pinupuntahan. I know yung beach volleyball, nasa Ilocos Norte. We actually have one-on-one meetings with different NSAs under our oversight committee on their preparations and bubble training. We encourage the NSAs na maki-partner sa mga LGUs, na kung pwede masagot yun facilities, food or accomodation The PSC will always be there, although we only have a budget of P200-million, kasama na training.”
Maxey also welcomed the offer of Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez to host some of the bubble training of different NSAs.
“The PSC is very happy for the offer and for the interest of Mayor Richard to host the bubble training of our athletes. Ormoc hosted our natiinal fencers before they competed in a qualifying in Uzbekistan. Since he is an athlete humself, we know we can always count on his support.”
“The PSC is really looking for LGUs to host our athletes, so nagpapasalamat kami kay Mayor Richard at sa lahat na gustong tumulong. We encourage the NSAS to do the same. Sa ngayon, ito yun approach ng PSC.”
Added Maxey: “Sa jiu-jitsu, they’re still looking for a place or LGU para mag-host ng kanilang bubble training. Ganun din sa pencak silat, na naghahanap din somewhere in Luzon.”
Asked about the possibility of another cancellation of the Tokyo Olympiccs due to the surge of new cases, Maxey remains positive.
“Yung sinasabi na tuloy, palaging nandyan yan dahil gusto talaga matuloy ng IOC, which owns the games. They have an agreement with Tokyo organizers. Pero totoo din ang balita na almost 800,000 population na nasa Tokyo, talagang ayaw nila. But understandable yung kanilang hinaing kasi ang sinasabi nila, ang unahin is public safety, protection ng mga tao. Anuman ang mangyari ang ating mga atleta tuloy naman ang paghahanda. Yun iba tuloy ang pagsali sa mga qualifiers, like Margielyn Didal who is competing in Italy. Hopefully, she will be the next qualifier for Tokyo.”
Maxey also expressed confidence that golf and judo can raise the number.
“May pag-asa din ang ating mga golfers (Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan), at judokas (Kiyomi Watanabe). Sana nga umabot ng 20 qualifiers. But definitely something good, something special is happening in Tokyo.”
Maxey was also asked about Tokyo Olympian Eumir Marcial, who was recently involved in a controversy with the PSC and Alliance of Boxing Association of the Philipppines (ABAP).
“We love Eumir. We want him to succeed not only in his boxing career but also in life. He’s a good athlete with a lot of potential to win medals in the Olympics,” said Maxey.
“Wala po kami masasabi kay Eumir. Basta ang amin lang, tuloy lang siya sa training. Ang PSC sa pamumuno ni Chairman Butch, talagang sususporta sa atleta natin. Walang pagdududa yun. And hopefully, Eumir will give honor to the country in the international arena, lalo dun sa Olympics. Gusto ko sya mag-succeed. He’s a national treasure.”
“As a sportswriter for a Davao-based newspaper, know the experiences of the athletes. Iknow their sacrifices, pain, i know their pains. Naiintindihan ko yun palagi. Kung ano man ang sinabi ni Eumir, wala sa amin yun. At the end of the day, tuloy pa din ang kanyang boxing career.”
Maxey also thanked the Philippine OLympic Committee (POC), under the leadership of Cong. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, and Manila government, led by Mayor Isko Moreno, for their assistance in inoculating the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 700 athletes and coaches at the Prince Hotel last May 28.
“On behalf of the PSC, I would like to thank POC, headed by our good congressman Bambol Tolentino, for initiating that activity. Sila yung sumulat sa IATF at inaprub naman ng national government na bakunahan ang mga atleta for SEA Games and Tokyo Olympics,” explained Maxey.
“Patuloy pa rin ang vaccination. I understand, during that day, merong almost 700 na mga atleta na nagpa-vaccinate, at ang second dose nila will be on June 26. If we have over 1,000 athletes, almost 70 percent na ang nabakunahan. Patuloy pa rin ang programa na yan kasi ang SEA Games, nagre-require talaga ng vaccination ng delegation. Ang PSC ay palaging nakikipag-ugnayan sa POC when it comes to the welfare of the athletes. Ayaw natin na sasabak sila sa giyera na sila mismo ay hindi protektado.”
He said the recent study clearing the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12 to 15 years old is good news for Palarong Pambansa and Batang Pinoy next year.
As long as vaccines are available, kahit anong brand, at payagan tayo ng government, maganda yann sa mga batang atleta,”
On the BIMP-EAGA Friendship Games which the country is supposed to host, Maxet admitted the pandemic got in the way.
“Sumulat kami sa Davao City, but they turned it down due to the pandemic. Then sa Palawan sana. Nag-stop itong lahat ng mga activities, considering the participating countries in BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines), talaga mataas ang mga cases.
Sa ngayon, stop na muna. Sa 2025 na uli next hosting. Focus muna for SEA Games and Olympics.”
He is also looking forward to continue the Indigenous People’s Games once the health situation allows.
“It’s still part of our plan. But right now we can’t have it face to face so meron tayong webinar on IP sports and games. We will have an international speaker this June 24.”
While declining to run for any elective position once his term at thw PSC ends, Maxey readily admitted plans to return to his first love: sportswriting.
“Wala akong balak sa pulitika at the moment. Pag tapos ng termino, babalik na ako sa Davao at siguro sa pagsusulat. Alam naman natin na a sportswriter is always a sportswriter. Lagi akong sportswriter, gaya ninyo,” said Maxey, who was a big part of the campaign team of President Duterte back in 2016.
Asked for his nessage to the Filipino athletes, Maxey said:
“Keep the faith. Believe. Continue to train hard. Stay focused in your preparations. Ang gobyerno ang nandito palagi at kami sa PSC ay naniniwala sa inyong kakayahan. Stay safe and let’s hope and pray for the best.”