Disabled athletes outpace healthy colleagues
They brought Paralympic glory to the Philippines last December.
During the 8th Asean Para Games in Singapore, they harvested 16 gold, 17 silver and 26 bronze medals.
Their stories are proving inspirational although increased cash bonuses amounting to almost P7 million still have to be paid to them under a new law.
Their narrative is so compelling these para- athletes are even outshining their able-bodied colleagues in qualifying for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics opening less than seven months from now.
As of this writing four athletes who excelled in the Singapore Para Games have booked tickets to Rio with a fifth one expected to make it when the Paralympics portion of the Rio Games start a month after regular competitions. They all belong to the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently Abled (Philspada).
Already Paralympians this year are Pete Mangliwan, Ernie Gawilan and Andy Avellana in athletics, and Josephine Medina in table tennis. A cinch to make it to Rio is powerlifter Adeline Ancheta.
In contrast, only two healthy Filipino athletes—Fil-American hurdler Eric Cray and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz—have so far qualified for the Summer Olympics, fueling fears that this year’s Philippine contingent to Brazil could be the slimmest in our country’s 93 years of regular Olympic participation.
“Para-athletes outpacing regular athletes in qualifying for Rio is a sad commentary on the limping state of Philippine sports today,” says fellow Inquirer sports columnist Recah Trinidad without skipping a beat.
Already, the day nears for the Philippine Olympic Committee to finish credentialing the Philippine delegation with the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee.
Qualifying tournaments worldwide should be over by July 5.
The deadline for submitting athletes and other PH contingent members by name is July 18.
Delegation registration including housekeeping chores such as room assignments should be done by July 22 because the Olympic Village opens on July 24.
The POC seemed unfazed by the slow turnout of PH Olympic qualifiers. As of this writing there are still 49 prospective Filipino Olympians fighting for slots via direct qualifying tournaments.
They have to compete against the world’s best athletes motivated to go to the Games.
These include 11 boxers who usually are the brightest prospects for Olympic medals, including our elusive first gold.
While competing in the qualifiers of their respective sports, these 49 athletes should at least come close to the minimum Olympic qualifying standard to get to Rio via the backdoor.
There are universality places for swimmers and track and field athletes. There are invitational places, or commonly called wild card berths for all other athletes.
The International Olympic Committee awards wild card berths and universality places to athletes who barely miss minimum Olympic requirement.
“We cannot just appeal for the inclusion of our athletes if they don’t approximate the minimum standard for their sport,” POC first vice president and Olympic chef de mission Joey Romasanta told Inquirer scribe June Navarro recently.
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Three duathletes, all from Pangasinan—Roberto Javier, Jeric Buhain and Robinson Esteves—have been unceremoniously dismissed from the national team by their head coach Manrique Reyes, allegedly for breach of discipline.
The trio who reportedly went to Asingan town to confront their local coach Jeffrey Valdez while under the influence of liquor is crying for due process.
Paging the Triathlon Association of the Philippines.
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