Leap of faith
Unless they have a scheduled fight or game, top-flight athletes look forward to a restful Sunday, right?
Mark Harry Diones will give you a “not me” smirk if you ask. The country’s triple jump specialist knows no rest day in his training week. Sundays? He’d rather spend them working to improve his craft.
And it’s perfectly understandable for someone who sees himself as a future Olympian in a track and field event where no Filipino has ever before shone on the world stage.
“I work hard because I want to be in the Olympics some day,” says the 24-year-old national record holder in the men’s triple jump. “I have been dreaming about it since high school.”
But Diones is in no rush to reach his personal goal. In fact, he’s been patiently trying to increase the length of his jumps, day in and day out, with national coach Jojo Posadas.
“We’re taking it one target at a time,” says Diones, a Criminology graduate from Jose Rizal University who hopes to become a police officer soon. “I always make every effort to reach peak form ahead of a competition.”
Up until he smashed the seven-year-old national record of 16.12 meters held by Joebert Delicano last year, all had not been rosy for the
5-foot-11 pride of Libmanan, Camarines Sur. Diones missed the medal podium in his first big competition, the Southeast Asian Games, two years ago in Singapore and then settled for the bronze in the Asian Beach Games in Danang, Vietnam, last year despite being in the lead going into the jumpers’ sixth and final leap.
But his perseverance slowly paid off as he matured in his event, and he finally rewarded himself with a Philippine-best 16.29m leap during the finals of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) Weekly Relays at the Philsports track oval in Pasig City. The feat was a vast improvement on the personal-best 15.75m he posted in Vietnam.
If the next SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, slated Aug. 19 to 31, is held today, Diones’ new record will be enough to land him the silver medal, based on the leap of the second-placer (16.20m by Thailand’s Varunyoo Kongnil) in the Singapore edition, according to Posadas.
Diones says his coach, the husband of track and field icon Elma Muros, wants him to jump at least 16.50m to have a fighting chance for the gold in Malaysia. “On ordinary days, I can jump 16.20 regardless of the conditions,” says Diones, a fan of British triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, who holds the world record of 18.43m.
Eventually, the man to beat for Diones in the SEA Games is Malaysian Muhammad Hakimi Ismail, who set the regional record of 16.76m in bagging the gold in Singapore. Diones came in fourth with a 15.87m effort.
“We’re toiling everyday to meet our target and I’m confident Mark can get there,” says Posadas, who brought Diones under his wings in 2010 after seeing him perform the previous year in the Palarong Pambansa in Tacloban. Diones then was a student of former long jumper Samson Calisura.
After the country’s future No. 1 shattered the Palaro record in the 2010 edition in Tarlac City, Mark joined his elder brother Nelbert at JRU, where the Posadases are head coaches. Three years later, Mark made it to the national team.
“Coach Jojo and coach Elma never fail to remind me that I should give my 100 percent every time I join a competition,” says Diones, fourth in a brood of six children of farm workers. “I realize that I won’t be an athlete forever, so I need to give it my best every time. That is the reason why I train even on Sundays.
“For now, I’m focused on getting a medal in the SEA Games.”
Diones is scheduled to compete in the Patafa National Open from March 30 to April 2 in Ilagan, Isabela, before joining his PH teammates in a month-long training stint, possibly in China, before the SEA Games.
This early, Patafa president Philip Ella Juico expects six gold medals from his charges in Kuala Lumpur. But with the way Diones has progressed, there’s a huge possibility that Juico’s golden count could be the minimum.