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After ‘meticulous’ route to the top, POC’s next worry is dreaded ‘slide’

/ 04:20 AM December 15, 2019

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) used a “meticulous” battle plan to get the job done in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, resulting in the overall championship for Team Philippines.

Now, it has to buckle down to work—perhaps doubly hard—to mitigate the dreaded SEA Games slide. The phenomenon has, after all, happened before and it will happen again.

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POC chair Steve Hontiveros said backroom tactics, employed heavily by the POC as the host federation for this year’s SEA Games, will play a part to make sure the expected drop in performance by the country in Vietnam 2021 won’t be so much of a free fall.

“[W]hat we have to do is sustain [the program]—the training, foreign exposure and preparation,” Hontiveros told the Inquirer. “Then we lobby hard.”Crafting a calendar that allowed as many regular sports in as possible while inserting disciplines with big medal offerings—and even bigger chances for Filipino victories—helped the POC steer Team Philippines to a medal hoard of 149 golds, 117 silvers and 121 bronzes.

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“It was a long and meticulous process, talking with NSA (national sports association) presidents and secretary generals, asking for their honest impressions on which events must be included and which shouldn’t,” said POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino. “It’s about deleting those events where Filipino athletes won’t potentially win the golds.”

Vietnam is likely to do the same. But with the country scoring heavily in Olympic events, continuous training of those athletes there would guarantee a buffer against the expected meal drop for Team Philippines. Lobbying to keep nonpermanent sports in the calendar would ensure the country would crowd the top in the overall medal race.

“That way we don’t lose as much as we did before,” Hontiveros said.

In 2005, the Philippines run away with 113 gold medals for the overall title but experienced a steep drop in golds harvested and medal standings position the following SEA Games.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, in 2007, the Philippines landed at sixth place with a 41-91-96 tally.

Hontiveros singled out dancesports and arnis, which produced a combined 24 gold medals for the Philippines. Both sports are not “permanent” in the SEA Games calendar.

“They have to go out there and lobby, convince Vietnam to include them,” Hontiveros said.

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Already, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, president of the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, declared his plans to fly to Hanoi along with Tolentino to do just that.

A sport will have to be played for three consecutive SEA Games to be eligible for permanent status. And to be included in an edition, at least four countries should have participations.

Other nonpermanent SEAG NSAs that contributed much to the Philippines’ championship run were esports with three golds, obstacle course (six) and jiu jitsu (five).

The POC employed a strength in numbers strategy for this SEA Games, filling the calendar with Olympic regulars to appease member-nations while also adding nonpermanent disciplines that the country is strong in.

“In the end, 56 sports allowed us to make the impossible possible—winning the overall championship of the 30th SEA Games,” Tolentino said on Friday.

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TAGS: Philippine Olympic Committee, POC, SEA Games, Steve Hontiveros
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