Starting them young key to developing world-class talent
There’s a long list of high-performance Filipino athletes who trace their humble beginnings in the Batang Pinoy Games (BPG) and the Philippine National Games (PNG), grassroots programs designed by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to find those hidden gems in the rough.
Aside from the nation’s first Olympic gold medalist in weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, a proud product of both the BPG and the PNG, recent Tokyo Olympics medalists Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial of boxing all started out young, armed with just dreams and determination.
“The achievements of these athletes have affirmed the vital role of strengthening grassroots sports alongside elite sports,’’ said PSC Chair William Ramirez.
Also discovered from the PSC’s youth programs were world champion gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, rower Cris Nievarez and weightlifting national record-holder Elreen Ando, all of them Olympic rookies in Tokyo.
The exploits of Diaz, silver performers Paalam and Petecio as well as the bronze output of Marcial is irreversible proof that absolute backing for grassroots development holds the key.
“These programs and competitions play a big role in the development of our athletes,’’ said Diaz in Filipino. “We have to continue serving as inspiration to the youth.’’
Diaz first saw action in the BPG in 2002 held in Puerto Princesa City where she won the gold as an 11-year-old.
At 16, Diaz won her first international medal in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games—a bronze in the women’s 58-kilogram category, before qualifying in the first of four straight Olympics starting in 2008 Beijing.
Apart from the PSC’s grassroots projects for finding and developing young athletes, Ramirez likewise acknowledged the support and trust of the parents of these children.
“You help shape champions when you lend your children to sports as they eventually become champions in their own fields,’’ said Ramirez. INQ