‘An inspiration,’ President Aquino says of dragon boat athletes
MANILA—The Cobra Philippine Dragon Boat team arrived to a rousing welcome Friday with no less than President Noynoy Aquino leading the cheers for the crew that captured five gold medals and two silvers in the recent World Championships in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Mr. Aquino presented them a plaque of Presidential Citation for being “an inspiration to the nation.” In return, the team handed him what the members called a “Paddle of Unity,” a symbol of the President’s task of “steering” the nation.
Philippine Dragon Boat Federation president Marcia Cristobal thanked the people for the overwhelming support and pledges of financial rewards to the team that relied on private sponsors to be able to compete in the biennial event.
Members of congress had earlier promised to give P5,000 each to the squad in recognition of its feat. TV network ABS-CBN is also reportedly planning of giving the team P1 million. Cristobal also reported that a communications giant called her up regarding a possible sponsorship deal. Asia Brewery Inc, which funded their US trip, vowed to continue supporting the paddlers in future endeavors.
The team arrived 3:40 a.m. via Philippine Airlines. Crowds at the airport cheered them as the PH paddlers walked out of departure area still very much surprised by their new-found fame. They were immediately billeted at the Century Park Hotel.
Cristobal also said the International Dragon Boat Federation has already surpassed the required number of nations to be eligible for International Olympic Committee membership. During the IDBF congress held at the end of the Worlds, it announced that there are already 80 members of the IF, five more than the required number.
For the meantime, IDBF is still under the International Canoe/Kayak Federation, though it is allowed to conduct its own tournament like it did during the 17-nation Worlds.
The Philippine Olympic Committee used the absence of an IOC-sanctioned international body as a reason to downgrade the PDBF from a voting POC member to just a discipline under PCKF early this year. The PDBF has been an NSA since 2004.
Some of the original team members agreed to be under PCKF. The Florida team is the core of the 2005 SEA Games squad that swept all six golds contested at the La Mesa dam reservoir and hammered out the record-breaking performances in the 2007 and 2009 Worlds.
The fact that they were allowed to compete, Cristobal said, means the IDBF recognized the PDBF—which also enjoys the sanction of the Asian Dragon Boat Federation and the Southeast Asian Dragon Boat Federation, which will run dragon boat events in the Indonesia SEAG in November.
“If we really want to cause trouble we can always tell SEADBF not to allow whatever team they (Philippine Canoe/Kayak Federation) will send in the SEA Games,” said Cristobal on the plane ride back home.
She said the PCKF actually fielded a team in the National Games in Bacolod but it lost to a Boracay Club team when its steerer fell to the water causing it to become disqualified.
“Isn’t that embarrassing?,” said Cristobal. “The more they hit us, and undermine our accomplishment, the more their ignorance is revealed.”
She added that the PH paddlers are hoping to compete in the Club Crew World Championships next year in Hong Kong and in Italy in 2014. The next Worlds will be in Hungary in 2013 and in Canada in 2015.
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