Philippine paddlers to ask President Aquino: Help us regain our NSA status
TAMPA BAY, Florida—When the five-time World Championships gold medalist Cobra Philippine Dragon Boat Federation team gets to meet President Aquino upon arrival on Friday, it will have one request from the Chief Executive: Help us get back our national sports association status.
PDBF secretary general and head coach Nestor Ilagan and assistant team manager Army Maj. Harold Cabunoc said they should regain the NSA status—and all the privileges that comes with it—which was taken away from them when the Philippine Olympic Committee ruled that they be under the Philippine Canoe/Kayak Federation.
“Dragon Boat is close to becoming an Olympic sport,” said Cabunoc. “There are already 70 nations and territories under the IDBF (international Dragon Boat Federation) and the minimum to become affiliated with the IOC is just 75.”
Officials in Manila texted the paddlers to tell them about a press conference to be held Friday morning and the courtesy call in Malacanang being arranged.
“I hope that pushes through, because I heard there are people trying to prevent that from happening,” said paddler Amina Annudin, alluding to the fact that the POC is headed by the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr.
There are also reports of a planned Senate hearing about their plight, which is being initiated by Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
“We won seven medals in seven events, five of them gold, and two silvers,” said Cabunoc. “Counting the three world championships we had in the 2007 and 2009 editions, we are eight-time world champions.”
But according to him, they also started being on the receiving end of wild splashes from the speeding opponents. “We were also being splashed with water before,” said Cabunoc.
Cabunoc said that since they don’t have the height of the European paddlers, they used techniques like different strokes for every situation.
He said that Seddon Channel is similar to Manila Bay which is salt water, placid and brackish.
Also, the Cobra PDBF paddlers have known each other for years, having been composed of the core of the 2005 Southeast Asian Games team that swept six gold medals in Manila.
“The US team is a tough team but they don’t play together because every paddler comes from a different state, sometimes the paddlers don’t know each other. As for us, we have team integrity.
“And here we don’t have a superstar because everyone contributes the same way as the rest,” added Cabunoc.
He said the Filipinos’ forte is the short distances which are more exciting as they are being compared to the sprints events in track and field.
The Cobra PDBF paddlers snared victories in the 200m premier mixed, 200m premier men and 500m premier men, but started the romp with a golden feat in the 1,000m men’s.
Because they didn’t get funding to form a complete 50-man team, the Filipinos only competed in the small boats which was introduced in this year’s 10th World Championships.
Paddler Jose Ijalo said that during the small boat premier open 500m, they are “paddling to death” against Australia, which they beat by more than a boat-length for their fifth gold Sunday.
“There was no tomorrow, so we gave everything we’ve got, ” said Ijalo, recalling their glorious burst of effort in the final 20 meters.