Four golds in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. An overall championship in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. A first-ever gold to go with two silvers and a bronze medal in the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. A first-ever World Cup berth by the Malditas football team.
There is a renaissance of sorts in Philippine sports, thanks to the Filipino athletes’ indomitable spirit, hard work, and innate talent.
But they couldn’t have reached the zenith without this one key factor—funding.
Thankfully, the Philippine Sports Commission has been behind the Filipino athlete every step of the way and the results have fired up the imagination of a nation longing for sports heroes to look up to, especially during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the PSC’s full backing, the Philippines achieved what first looked like an impossible dream in the Summer Olympic games in Tokyo, winning its first Olympic gold that quenched a 97-year-old thirst and then adding fire to its greatest performance ever with an addition of two silver medals and a bronze.
Already thumping its chest with its best showing in an almost century-long history of participation in the Olympiad following the country’s first-ever gold from superwoman weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, the Philippines continued an onslaught never seen before as it added two silver medals from boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, plus another bronze from their teammate Eumir Marcial.
The overall show was good for 49th place overall and away from the 0-0-0 tallies that have marked five Olympiads from 2000 in Sydney to 2012 in London.
The medal haul also proved that the regional dominance of the Philippines, the reigning Southeast Asian Games kingpin, which sent 19 of its best athletes to the pandemic games, was no fluke.
True, it is the athletes’ fighting heart, hard work and resilience that contributed most to the Philippines’ magical showing in the Tokyo games.
But it is the PSC—led by its chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and his commissioners Ramon Fernandez, Charles Raymond Maxey, Celia Kiram and Arnold Agustin—that paved the way and opened the gates for the Filipino athlete to reach his full potential.
“We spent (over) P2 billion for the training and exposure of our athletes since 2016 to form a strong team for Tokyo. Never in the history of our country has government been this supportive of the Filipino athlete, financially. Ngayon lang nangyari ito sa pamunuan ng ating Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte,” said chairman Ramirez.
Indeed, it was the first time ever that the Filipino athlete is finally getting the financial backing he sorely lacked for years.
For spending good money on the national athletes’ international training and exposure, equipment, foreign coaches, education and nutrition, the PSC expected a return of its huge investment in the form of a successful run not only in the Tokyo Olympics, but in the coming Hanoi Southeast Asian Games and the Hangzhou Asian Games, as well.
The turning point was after the 2016 Rio Olympiad, where Diaz settled for the weightlifting silver medal.
The PSC knew right then and there that it will take a village to produce a world-class athlete, who needs a well-oiled team of experts to deliver a winning performance in international tournaments like the Olympic Games.
So it funded what is now known as the “Hidilyn Model,” wherein the PSC gave its approval to hire for Diaz a foreign mentor in Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen, a strength and conditioning coach in Julius Naranjo, a masseuse in Belen Bañas, a sports psychologist in Dr. Karen Trinidad and a sports nutritionist in Jeanette Aro—collectively known as Team HD.
“We have limited resources at the start, but we saw her potential so we took the chance,” said Ramirez.
The PSC board of commissioners provided the same support, based on their submitted requirements, to gymnast Caloy Yulo, pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, among others.
The total cost of support for all the athletes since 2016? P2.7 billion.
And the result? Four Olympic medals, spiked by a gold, in one edition alone. You can’t argue with that kind of success.
The challenge now is how to keep this new era of sporting excellence in the world and in the region, where the Philippines also affirmed its dominance in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which it hosted.
Ramirez disclosed that looking forward to the 2024 Paris Olympics now becomes a rosier picture to look forward to. By then, the Philippines would have a more mature team to field. Better equipped even.
“I think it gives everyone a more impetus to plan and start their preparations,” said Ramirez.
In trying to preserve the huge gains that were achieved in Olympics, the PSC wants to buckle down to work by creating its own playbook, some sort of a blueprint on how to prepare athletes for the next three Olympic games.
“Gagawin namin ang playbook. These are plans towards the Olympics in Paris, Los Angeles, and Brisbane,” said Ramirez.
The PSC chief said he and members of the board will deliberate on the playbook. This will serve as a direction for athletes, coaches, the national sports associations and the private sponsors in their efforts to assist the government sports agency prepare for major international competitions.
The PSC chief explained that the playbook will be for the next leaders of the government sports agency when the administration changes in the next few months.
“Kung hindi namin gagawin ito, baka magkaroon ng problema. So it will be an important blueprint for the coming new set of PSC officials,” said Ramirez, whose own administration will go down in history as the one with a most lasting legacy.