IT’S September and everyone is either feeling nostalgic listening to Neil Diamond’s classic song of the 70s, September Morn, or hopeful hearing Jose Mari Chan’s all-time favorite, Christmas in our Hearts, for the holidays.
At TOPS (Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports), we feel both nostalgic and hopeful on the first Saturday of the month with no less than actress- commercial model-sports icon Mikee Cojuangco bringing her winsome smile for the 118th edition of our “Usapang Sports on Air” via Zoom.
Yes Mikee CJ on the house.
A casting coup for TOPS, as Gab Ferreras, a long-time admirer of the lovely daughter of former Philippine Olympic Committee president Peping Cojuangco and wife of former PBA player Dodot Jaworski, would say.
We asked the questions, Mikee answered with the flair of a world-class sportswoman for nearly two hours.
Let’s listen to her.
How did you feel when weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz captured the country’s first-ever gold medal in the Olympics after 97 years and that you were there to personally award the medal?
I feel so proud that Hidilyn won the first Olympic gold medal for the country in Tokyo. Dasal ako ng dasal kaya nung nanalo siya, nawala talaga lahat ng poise ko. Sobrang nilabas ko yung saya na nanalo siya. Talagang nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos na may gold na tayo. Even when she bagged the silver in Rio in 2016, nakita ko yung mga sacrifices ni Hidilyn. Sa Tokyo, she was really physically, mentally and spiritually prepared to win.”
Now that we have an Olympic gold, do you think our athletes will contnue to get more support from both the government and private sector?
“I think the POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) and PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) should continue to work together. Sports is now very scientific and we have to support our athletes with proper training and exposure and even nutrition. There has to be an assessment of the technical level of the different NSAs. Yun talent identification and stategic planning are also very important.”
As as former athlete-turned-IOC official, what can you say about the mental health issues now affecting the athletes?
Psychology plays a big part in our life and mental health is important not just for athletes, but for all individuals. That’s why I support the decision of American gymnast Simone Biles and tennis champion Naomi Osaka to come out into open and speak up about the mental health and well-being. We have to evaluate the problems with help of experts and backed up by science.”
What can you say about the decision of the IOC to allow transgender athletes to compete starting in the Tokyo Olympics?
“The IOC is constantly reviewing all issues, including transgender participation. It’s really up to the IF (international federations) since the IOC recognizes the fact that they are the experts in their respective sports. Yun transgender athlete from New Zealand in womens weightlifting was allowed by their IF. Sa rugby naman, they imposed a total ban on transgenders competing in women’s events because of safety issues. Sa athletics, yung testosterone level ang pinag-uusapan to ensure level playing field. I suggest our local NSAs should take the time to listen to their own IFs for guidelines.”
With new sports like surfing, wall climbing and skateboarding in the Tokyo Olympics, do we see bowling, billiards and chess — three sports where Filipinos can excel — in future Olympics?
“The three additional sports were the prerogative of the host country. Tokyo made the proposal and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) approved. Yan yung mga sports na nakikita nila na magiging interesting sa kanilang mga kababayan. Like baseball, sport talaga ng mga Japanese yan kaya they were very happy na nanalo sila. Pero sa Paris, hindi naman ito kasama. Hindi lahat ng nasa Tokyo, makakasama sa mga future Olympics. So right now, wala pang napag-uusapan na mga bagong sports even sa 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.”
Did you miss competing for the flag and country?
Yes! Most definitely. Matagal ako natigil mag-equestrian simula naging IOC member ako kasi siyempre very busy. Pati ang pag-train ng kabayo. Hindi naman yun parang bisikleta na pwede mong kunin sa garahe tapos sasakyan mo na lang. Nahirapan din ako kasi malayo ako sa mga kabayo ko. But I started again last March, although natigil ulit nung umalis ako for Tokyo, at pag-uwi ko na ECQ. Malayo sa ginagawa ko dati pero ine-enjoy ko pa rin siya kasi mahal ko ang sport ko.”
As president, what are your plans for the Equestrian Association of the Philippines (EAP)?
“I was elected as president on March 10, 2020. Then, March 16 nagkaroon na ng lockdown (because of the coronavrius). It’s frustrating dahil hindi kami nagkaroon ng in-person events. Nakapag-training naman kami dahil una, it’s an outdoor and non-contact sport. Secondly, naka-built na sa sports namin yung social distancing dahil kung maglalapit kami, baka mag-sipaan ang mga kabayo namin. Nahinto lang yun mga competitions, pati training with our foreign coaches dahil kailangan pang mag-quarantine kung pupunta sila dito. But despite the pandemic, may mga online seminars and activities naman kami.”
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