THOSE were indeed glittering feats delivered by the teenage Philippine boxing team on the final day of a gold-picking expedition at the Subic Freeport in Zambales last March 16. The five-man team won four gold medals, and missed tying powerhouse Kazakhstan (4 golds, 1 silver) for the top spot by a silver medal.
In a way, the young PH team (aged 17-18) did surpass itself because Kazakhstan had entries in all 10 divisions. An established world power in amateur boxing, Kazakhstan also brought in a Cuban coach, maybe the first time it had done so in its storied international stints.
National amateur boxing president Ricky Vargas was profuse with praises for the golden feats. He did not say it but Vargas appeared convinced they have found the right path in their quest for the country’s first Olympic gold.
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It was a sparkling stand by the Pinoy simonpures but no one could honestly point out what made all the difference.
One veteran scribe at ringside was quick to single out the presence of a British consultant who had offered to assist the national team during the London Olympics last year.
“He really emphasized on defense which helped the team tremendously,” the scribe explained.
There, indeed, has been great improvement in that area, but when the coach of the teenage national squad, three-time Olympian Romeo Brin, moved over to the radio booth for a postfight talk and felicitation with dzSR, the soft-spoken warrior proved to be quite a revelation.
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“Eumir Marcial was good, but he kept getting hit silly in the head, mainly in the final round,” this reporter told coach Brin.
The dusky, battle-scarred Olympian humbly acknowledged the observation and explained they would next concentrate on that flaw: “Tinuturuan, pero hindi natin mabigla, masyado pang mura (We’re teaching him, but we’re going slow. He’s too raw).”
Brin also explained that Marcial, a bantamweight gold medalist in the last World Youth Boxing Championships who has suddenly grown into a welterweight, still has to fully steady himself up in the heavier division.
On James Palicte, who opted to stand in front of his foe without doing anything in the closing round, Brin explained that they just “kidnapped” the lanky lightweight from the recent National Open in Maasin, Leyte.
“Wala talagang hangin, pero matapang at mabilis matuto (He was short-winded but is a fast learner, very brave),” Brin explained.
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Would Brin be made to handle these talented amateurs all the way in their quest for slots in the Olympics?
Truth is these gold-medal winners and other talents in their young batch may not be ripe and ready yet for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
But what could be truly heartwarming was the quiet emergence of Brin, a native of Taytay, Rizal, now based in Palawan, as the most convincing trainer and teacher of emerging boxing talents.
This is not to say the 40-year-old Brin, who had fought with very little success in the Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics, could finally prove to be the missing link.
Always short and smaller in all his three Olympic stints, Brin has apparently translated all his losing experiences into humble winning pointers for his young wards.
“Hindi puwedeng sigawan at sabihin kung anong gagawin sa oras ng laban (It’s not proper to shout and tell the boxer what to do during a fight),” Brin explained softly.
He believes that shouting out instructions frantically during a fight could mislead or disorient the young fighter.
Brin believes in first quietly assuring young fighters, teaching them how to be sharply convenient with their strength and skills, instead of always telling them what they were doing wrong.
Problem: Brin is so humble, obscure he tends to be invisible even at the moment of triumph.