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A monster surfaces in swimming

/ 05:20 AM February 01, 2019

A monster called politics has surfaced from the troubled waters of Philippine Swimming, Inc. (PSI).

A serious leadership dispute in the national sports association for aquatics threatens to sow disorder while the country prepares to host the Southeast Asian Games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

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It is not just that the open, all-inclusive tryouts called by PSI president Lani Velasco for the national swimming squad to the 30th SEA Games is in question.

It seems that a breakaway PSI faction including four former national swimming stars is walking fearlessly through the biggest land mine in the lot and is disputing the legitimacy of Velasco’s presidency.

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Observers said the standoff  pits the sport’s local royalty versus a generous swimming mom for control of the PSI.

Not even an impassioned appeal from Philippine Olympic Committee president Ricky Vargas “to put misunderstandings and heartaches aside” could appease ex-tank idols Ral Rosario, Eric Buhain, Akiko Thomson, Carlos Brosas and their supporters.

“Malalim (it runs deep),” Rosario said sarcastically about how Velasco emerged PSI president in a process he said was rammed through by former PSI head Mark Joseph and Vargas’ predecessor, Jose Cojuangco Jr., without a valid voting and when the PSI’s board of trustees was not looking.

But Velasco, who bankrolled the country’s hosting of the SEA Age Group Swimming Championships last year, maintains that she won rightfully “together with the current members of the PSI Board of Trustees.”

She also said her Feb. 17, 2018, election was recognized by the top officials of the International Swimming Federation (Fina) and the Asian Swimming Federation.

Velasco recently told Inquirer sports reporter June Navarro that the PSI would entertain the registration of swimmers and clubs for the tryouts under Fina rules.

But Rosario said the breakaway group would have none of that, thus Velasco’s  swim-offs won’t be on a national scale since clubs and swimmers “that support us all over the islands won’t join.”

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Buhain said they would conduct their own tryouts in May and August and would just have the fastest times do the talking.

“The group led by Mr. Rosario has clamored for unity,” said Velasco. “How can they claim that if they refuse to take part in the open tryouts?”

Veteran Pangasinan newsman Juanito “Jun” Velasco was funny and jovial as usual during lunch last December at a Lingayen hotel. “If you were a condemned man sitting in your cell dreaming of a last meal that will baffle the jailhouse chef, what will it be?” he asked. I was still thinking when his younger brother Butch showed up, scuttling my thought and his punchline. Moments with Jun are but a memory. He passed away on Jan. 25 at age 72. His remains will be interred at the Mt. Zion Memorial Park in Dagupan City on Feb. 2. Farewell, my friend. Until we meet again.

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TAGS: Inc. (PSI), Philippine swimming, Southeast Asian Games
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