MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Pia Cayetano on Monday bewailed as “unacceptable and defeatist” the decision of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) to send “no more than 200” athletes to the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar in December, and to reserve the slots only for those with the potential to win gold at the games.
Citing reports from the sports pages, Cayetano noted that the POC and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) had clarified that of the 200 slots submitted to the organizers by a joint task force, 90 were reserved for individual athletes, while the rest were allocated for team sports.
“This appears to be the smallest Philippine delegation ever to be sent to the SEA Games. Sports observers note that we have sent at least 500 athletes or more in past stagings of the biennial event,” Cayetano, a triathlete, said.
The senator said she would call for a probe into the country’s preparations for the 2013 SEA Games “including the reported exclusion from the national delegation of national athletes in various sports competitions, due to the decision of the POC and the PSC to send only athletes who, in their own narrow criteria, have the potential to bring home a gold medal for the country.”
She cited earlier reports quoting the POC as saying it would use “performance specific” criteria to determine the final list of athletes competing in December, and that the list may be limited to only those who won gold medals in the 2011 SEA Games “and those who have the potential to do so.”
Cayetano said POC president Jose Cojuangco was quoted as saying the purpose for limiting the number of slots was “to send only those with good chances for the gold.”
“With all due respect to the POC, something is fatally flawed in the criteria’s logic,” Cayeatano said.
“In one clean sweep, our policy now is to shut the door (on) developing national athletes who could be in contention only for silver or bronze (medals) this year, but (who could) develop their skills and become gold medalists in the future,” Cayetano said.
“And who could precisely say whether or not these athletes are ready to compete for gold in Myanmar, when they weren’t even given the chance in the first place? Sadly, we will never know since we’ve already robbed them of the opportunity to compete at all,” the senator said.
She added: “And if the (athletes) do miss out on the gold, don’t silvers and bronzes mean anything? It’s (like) saying to our athletes: ‘It’s gold or nothing,’ that a silver or a bronze in the SEA Games amounts to nothing in our own narrow appreciation of the medal tally.”
“I find this latest policy of our two sports governing bodies unacceptable and defeatist. As a sports enthusiast and former national athlete, I know for a fact that an athlete thrives in competition,” Cayetano said.