TAGUM CITY—About 1,700 young athletes from Mindanao begin their campaign to win inclusion in the national training pool as competition in the region’s qualifying leg of the 2013 Batang Pinoy Games fires off today at the new Davao del Norte Sports and Tourism Center here.
Track and field athletes plunge into action first as they dispute the initial 18 gold medals at stake. Games in badminton, softball, gymnastics, chess and the qualifying heats in swimming also go full throttle in the competition for athletes 15 years old and younger.
Medal performers seek the region’s berths in the national championships scheduled Nov. 19 to 23 in Zamboanga City.
“Just let the children play,” said Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia during yesterday’s vibrant opening ceremony graced by Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario, Davao del Norte Rep. Anthony Del Rosario and PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez.
“If you perform well here, chances are you will be identified by the NSAs (national sports associations) which will put you in the pool of athletes that will eventually compete in the Asian Youth Games,” added Garcia.
Organized by the PSC, the week-long meet is the best-attended Mindanao leg ever.
“This is a record as far as participation is concerned,” said Del Rosario, who pointed out that the province is also bidding to host the 2015 Palarong Pambansa. “It will have a big impact on Mindanao in the sense that this will really put the region in the forefront of sports.”
Del Rosario said entries in the 22 sports here could top 2,000, surpassing the 415 who vied in the 2011 Zamboanga City edition and the 635 who saw action in Dapitan City last year.
The games’ first gold medal will be disputed in the boys’ 5,000-meter run. Medals are also up for grabs in the long jump, shot put, high jump, 100m dash, 400m, 1500m and 4x100m relay along with the 110m and 100m hurdles.
“We feature sports not in the Palaro calendar, so these sports will have grassroots representation,” said Gomez. “But unlike the Palaro, the Batang Pinoy is open to all. Even children from the mountains and out-of-school kids can participate.”