Monthly Archives: August 2017

Worst SEAG finish

Our sports leaders projected a haul of 50 gold medals in Kuala Lumpur. They badly missed the target. Instead, Team PHL finished with only 24 gold medals. How bad is this result? Two years ago in Singapore, we collected 29. We pocketed the same 29 first-prize medals in Myanmar in 2013. Prior to that, we performed much better: 36 gold in Jakarta (2011), 38 in Laos (2009), 41 in Thailand (2007) and our biggest harvest in our SEAG history, a whopping 113 gold medals when he hosted in 2005.

What happened? We have been slipping, sliding, sinking and slumping. As each odd year passes, we deteriorate. We sent 497 athletes and 163 officials and got humiliated. Imagine 113 gold medals in 2005 and a dozen years later we’re down to 24? What’s sad is this: there will be plenty of finger-pointing among the POC and PSC and NSAs and many other three-letter organizations but, after months pass, all is forgotten.

The only good news? It’s our hosting of SEAG 2019. For sure, given that we own the homecourt advantage and get to choose the events, our standing will improve. It’s possible we’ll collect 50, 75 or 94 in 24 months’ time.

This Southeast Asian Games practice of allowing the host nation to choose the events it wants is gaining controversy. One of the complainants is Thailand. Back in 2015, Thailand was the overall champion of this 11-nation meet, winning 95 gold medals versus the 84 won by Singapore. This was two years ago. This week, they only won 70 and were clobbered by the 142 gold medals of the hosts. (In contrast, Malaysia only got 62 gold medals in 2015. That’s an increase of 80 gold medals!)

“They organise sports they are good at and do not organise sports other countries are good at,” said Thana Chaiprasit, Thailand’s delegation chief.

Unlike the Olympics which relies on the 90-member International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide on the events, the SEAG has a different format. The host nation decides. (Speaking of the IOC, the Philippines only has one representative: Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, the daughter of POC President Peping Cojuangco.)

This I-get-to-choose-my-games arrangment has resulted in the host nation often defying the conventional results. In the last 10 SEA Games hostings, six host nations emerged overall champions.

As examples: Malaysia’s 62 gold medals in 2015 became 142 this week. As for the Philippines’ 24 gold medals today, we have reason to smile in the months ahead. When we hosted in 2005, we garnered an improbable 113 gold medals.

Mr. Chaiprasit of Thailand complained that Malaysia dropped women’s boxing and included squash. Malaysia even included ice hockey and ice skating (a SEAG first), maybe to increase it’s tally. And if you’re wondering why we haven’t heard about Hidilyn Diaz, who won silver at the Olympics? That’s because they scrapped women’s weightlifting!

What does this mean for the Philippines? It means that from the lowliest of scores that we received this week (24 gold), we have a chance to reverse this because of this crazy, almost-unfair rule.

For 2019 and to gain back our No. 1 spot, I suggest we include takyan, patintero, sungka, jack-en-poy, holen, and tubig-tubig.

US Open

(Getty Images)

At the 29th SEA Games, our Philippine netters pocketed two silver and two bronze medals. Clarice Patrimonio reached the women’s singles finals but got clobbered, 6-0, 6-1, by Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand. The heartbreaker was the men’s doubles. With Treat Huey unable to join, our top duo was Ruben Gonzales and Niño Alcantara. They played the Ratiwatana twins, Sanchai and Sonchat, in the finals last Friday. The Pinoys lost a thriller to the Thais, 6-4, 2-6, 10-7. That 10-7 is not a third set but a super-tiebreak. We got two more bronze medals: mixed doubles (Denise Dy and Ruben Gonzales) and women’s doubles (Katharina Lehnert and Denise Dy).

US OPEN. In New York, it’s the final Grand Slam tennis event of 2017. The biggest news? The injuries. Among those who are out include Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Raonic and Nishikori. Why these many withdrawals? Tennis is one-on-one. You can’t get substituted like soccer or volleyball. Coaches aren’t even allowed inside. You play on grass this week, on red clay the next, shift to hard courts after; there are indoor and outdoor venues and you sprint back and forth for 3 hours; all these take a physical toll on an athlete’s body.

Rafael Nadal is the world’s No. 1. This is incredible. At 31, he was battered with injuries last year. He withdrew from the 2016 French Open and from Wimbledon. Ranked as low as No. 9 last January, in just several months, he has overtaken everyone.

Roger Federer is even more impressive. He won the Australian Open and Wimbledon and he’s favored to win a sixth US Open crown next Sunday. Aged 36 and 31, Roger and Rafa are defying the conventional wisdom that athletes can’t last long. Bjorn Borg retired at 26. Pete Sampras left at 31. Federer and Nadal are able to extend their careers because of proper scheduling. Injured? They stop and take an extended vacation. Tired? They don’t play the following tournament. They space out their commitments and listen to their bodies. It’s called wisdom from old age.

How does the US Open compare to the other majors? It’s loud. It’s filled with thousands of people crisscrossing the Tennis Center inside Corona Park, a colossal venue of 363 hectares in Queens. The Arthur Ashe Stadium is the largest tennis stadium on this planet, seating nearly 24,000. I remember watching with Fabby Borromeo at the top-most bleacher and Andre Agassi looked like an ant! It’s summer in New York today and the weather can get scorching hot. So the spectators wear sleeveless shirts, baggy shorts and sandals. They drink Heinekin. Because as formal as Wimbledon is, the US Open is the opposite: it’s noisy, high energy, pump-fisting tennis.

Among the men, I’d love to see an Alexander Zverev or Dominic Thiem win the $3.7 million singles champion’s prize money. Among the women, Serena Williams is pregnant. This gives everyone a chance. The first round match to watch? Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova. If my Google research is correct, this match should be shown at 7 a.m. today at Fox Sports.

As for Treat Huey, our best-ever Filipino-American doubles specialist who was ranked as high as 18 in the world (he’s now 62), it’s the same sad news as Djokovic and Murray: Treat Huey has withdrawn due to injury.

 

SEAG in Cebu

The good news is the Phils. is hosting the biennial event in 2019. The bad news is how we’ve performed in Kualu Lumpur. Armed with a reported P300 million budget and having sent 497 athletes and 193 officials to Malaysia, thus far, we’ve only won 15 gold medals and 75 total medals (including 24 silver and 36 bronze).

SEAG has 11 countries joining. Where do we rank? Right in the middle: five countries are better than us and five are worse. The top five are Malaysia (72 gold and 165 total), Vietnam (43 gold and 107 total), Singapore (40 gold and 115 total), Thailand (36 gold and 143 total) and Indonesia (23 gold and 103 total). These are the top five. We sit at No. 6 and below us are Myanmar (27 total medals), Cambodia (8), Brunei (9), Laos (8) and Timor Este with zero medals.

Is this good or bad? It’s definitely not good. We placed in the same middle (sixth) place at the 2015 SEAG. Obviously, there’s no way for Myanmar and Cambodia to surpass our medal tally; so if we can’t beat those top five rivals, this is dismal and miserable news. Two years ago in the Singapore SEAG, we won 29 gold medals and 131 total. With only three days left in Kuala Lumpur, let’s hope our tally increases. And here’s the shocking comparison: back when he hosted the 2005 SEAG, we garnered 113 gold medals and 291 in total to become No. 1. Yes, we had home court advantage but what a disparity between today and 12 years ago.

2019 SEAG. Speaking of hosting, the 30th SEAG edition will be in Manila two years from now. My question is: Which cities will host the games? There are plenty of games to be played. In Kualu Lumpur this week, there are 404 events in 38 sports. We had almost similar numbers back in 2005: we organized 443 events in 40 sports.

Manila, obviously, will host the opening and closing ceremonies. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex will act as the main venue. Speaking of Rizal Memorial, did you know that it almost got sold? The 10-hectare property that was built in 1934 in a prime Manila property was offered to the market. Estimates for its selling price ranged from P10 to P15 billion. But in the end, PSC chief Butch Ramirez opted to keep Rizal Memorial as a sports hub. Very timely because of SEAG 2019. Many of the events are expected to be played in Rizal: athletics, tennis, gymnastics and baseball.

Cebu played hosts in 2005. We welcomed the athletes from mountain-biking (Danao), dancesport (Waterfront), judo and karate (Mandaue), Pencak silat (Cebu Coliseum) and sepak takraw (USC).

In 2019, we should lobby to host these same sports and more. With MTB, I don’t see any other Philippine city that can rival the one that the Duranos and Boying Rodriguez prepared. That’s why the XTERRA (off-road triathlon) is in Danao. With dancesport, the king and queen are Edward and Eleanor Hayco.

With two years to go before SEAG, I hope our leaders will lobby for Cebu to host more events. In 2005, triathlon was held in Subic. Can we offer to host triathlon here, given the success of the Ironman 70.3? Boxing was in Bacolod. Can we transfer this to the IEC or Waterfront? How about the marathon? Imagine this: Joy Tabal being cheered on by thousands along Cebu’s streets as she defends her SEAG marathon gold. Cebu ought to host more in 2019.

   

Thank you, Cayetano

The name “Alan Peter Cayetano” is not often associated with sports. It’s his older sister of four years, Senator Pia Cayetano, who is always linked with sports.

Sen. Pia bikes and runs marathons with Jane-Jane Ong; she braves the open sea to join triathlons; the woman whose full name is Pilar Juliana is totally passionate with sports.

But today, sports-wise, the Cayetano that we ought to pay tribute to is Alan Peter. A senator from 2007 to 2017, he was recently asked by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to become the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Since May, he exchanged his first name of “Senator” to “Secretary.”

DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is to be thanked because of the action that he took last week. Because while the 2017 Southeast Asian Games are now on-going in Malaysia, the hosting of the 2019 SEAG was completely in limbo just over eight days ago.

Here’s the backstory: In July 2015, the POC announced to our Asean neighbors and to us Pinoys that we would be hosting the 2019 SEAG. This was welcome news. The last time we hosted was in 2005. Even better news, we topped the medal tally that year with 291 medals, becoming overall champions.

So, 2019 was a go. Go? No!

Because just last month, our national leaders announced that it was backing out of the 2019 SEAG hosting. The reason: the billions to be spent on sports needed to be channeled for the rebuiling of Marawi. That’s the official statement. But behind the scenes, we knew there were other reasons, including this: the POC and PSC were fighting.

And so, with the SEAG hosting, there was a stalemate. Cojuangco was embarrassed to go to Malaysia to inform his POC friends that the Philippines was reneging on its hosting promise. Ramirez reiterated the national leadership’s stance that we couldn’t do it.

Enter Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano. In a stunning press conference just seven days ago, Cayetano stood at the center of the table and was able to bring together the warring POC and PSC factions. We’re back to hosting in 2019 and Cayetano will be the SEAG Organizing Committee chairperson with Ramirez and Cojuangco as his co-chairmen.

“We are so happy that despite the glitches, and only two days before this meeting,” said the SEA Games Federation council president HRM Yam Tunku Sri Imran, “our friends in the Philippine Olympic Committee met with officials from their government to discuss and confirm to us that there are hosting the 2019 SEA Games.”

This is fantastic news. Backing out of a major commitment does not send a good signal to the international community. I’m glad this was resolved. SEAG is good for tourism. It’s nation-building.

Kudos to Sec. Cayetano. Only three months new to his DFA job, he’s been extremely busy. Just days before that presscon, he was hosting the Asean foreign ministers meeting. His responsibility is “foreign affairs” not “sports.” For him to rescue the SEAG hosting from near-certain death is highly laudable.

My additional take on this? We also have to thank his sister. My hunch is that given how sports-loving Sen. Pia is, she was approached by top officials and she, in turn, spoke to her brother to bring everyone together.

Cayetano, Cayetano. Kaya natin ‘to.

Joy to the world

The odds of Mary Joy Tabal winning the country’s first gold medal in Kuala Lumpur were unlikely.

It’s not like she has gotten slower. No. Her performance has improved. When she debuted at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, her 42K time was 3:04:39. Joy placed second. Since then, she has become quicker. In last December’s Milo Marathon in Manila, she clocked 2:47:57. That’s 16 minutes faster than SEAG two years ago. And even better, at the 2016 Ottawa Marathon, she ran a personal best of 2:43:31.

It’s not like Joy doesn’t have financial backing. This is often a huge problem for athletes. With Joy, thanks to the generosity of this gang of brothers named Marco, Andre, Paolo, Chip and Jonel, the 4-foot-11 runner from Brgy. Guba has full support. She has a top coach in Philip Dueñas. She’s able to travel: at the Rio Olympics and for trainings and events in Japan, the U.S., Italy, Canada and Switzerland.

So if it’s not her speed and sponsors, why was the Philippines nearly denied a gold medal yesterday?

Because of the Malaysian organizers. There wasn’t supposed to be a marathon race! Unbelievable to think but of the 38 sports and 404 events listed in the August 19 to 30 games, the 42K run wasn’t originally included. Why? Because of the few participants and massive logistics involved in organizing them. Well, there is some truth to that. In yesterday’s 42K race, there were only 15 male participants (won by Singapore’s Soh Rui Yong) and six women. (As to why very few join, I don’t know.)

Still, the marathon is a must-race race. It’s been part of the SEAG for the last 16 years and it’s an iconic Olympic sport. Thankfully, bombarded with complaints from other national sports associations and from the running community, the marathon was reinstated. In fact, kudos to Malaysia, they invited the general public yesterday by including a 5K and a 15K open-for-all run.

Second reason why Joy almost did not win gold? You know why. It’s spelled PATAFA. Some now call it “pataka” or “ataya!” If it wasn’t for the pressure applied by the Cebuanos through Facebook and the media; if it wasn’t for PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez who fought in behalf of the 28-year-old Joy; if it wasn’t for Motor Ace and Jonel Borromeo convincing the PATAFA president Philip Juico (like Jonel did for Joy for the Olympics), there would be no joyous headline news. 

The reason why PATAFA wouldn’t include Joy in their roster of athletes? Because she wouldn’t train in Manila and with their team. Juico said last June: “Ayaw namin sa kanya, ayaw niya sumunod sa amin. (We don’t want her. She won’t follow us).” Crazy. Imagine if you forced every sportsman to forgo of what’s successful just because you prefer Manila? It’s about the results. And athletics is a numbers game. The scoring is not subjective like gymnastics or figure-skating, it’s time-based. And it’s easy to spot the fastest. Just compare their times! Worse, the Borromeo brothers were spending for all of Joy’s travels at no cost to the Philippine government. How lucky can we get with that arrangement?

Anyway, thank you, Lord, those hurdles were overcome. With Joy, what’s amazing is her humility. She is so buotan, smiling, respectful, and, yes, kugihan. Joy’s win is a victory for running and for Cebu. May this first gold inspire the 497-strong Team Pilipinas.

Be Honest

Archbishop Jose Palma (2nd from right) with Guy Ceniza, Alan Larot and Boy Villanueva

Of the dozens of values that are important in life, and these include Respect, Excellence, Compassion, Responsibility, Gratitude and having a Caring heart, the single most important value might be this: Honesty.

In the several companies that we operate, and in the over 1,200 team members that we employ, nothing is more important than integrity. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best waiter or the smartest teacher or you possess exemplary leadership skills, if you’re not honest, you’re out.

This advocacy is at the heart of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. The BCBP was founded in 1980 with the mission “to bring Christ to the marketplace and to win the marketplace for Christ.” And what is BCBP’s signature campaign?

Be Honest. Even if others are not. Even if others will not. Even if others cannot. And from Proverbs 10:9: “He who walks honestly, walks securely.”

Next Sunday, August 27, it’s the BCBP Be Honest Run. The main goal is to help promote the culture of fairness, fidelity and faithfulness. To be honest at home. To be honest with your people. To be honest in business dealings. To be honest with yourself.

Over a thousand participants are expected next weekend and registration is still open. The distances offered are not intimidating: you can walk or run the 2K or 4K or 8K distances. There are no winners. And here’s a first, possibly for any race in the country: We will award a prize to the fastest finisher… based on honesty! Sure, a clock (courtesy of Joel Juarez of Coco Running) will be hanging on the finish line but there will be no timing chips or U-turn bracelets to check if you’ve passed all the corners. The Be Honest Run will be won by the first placer who is honest!

The August 27 event will be held at the Ayala Center Cebu. The start and finish is at The Terraces and the runners (and, yes, leisurely-walkers) will navigate the streets inside the Cebu Business Park. The run will start at 5:45 a.m. and everyone is advised to arrive at 5 a.m. for the prayer, opening remarks and the warm-up exercises.

The “Be Honest Run” is open to all BCBP members, family members, friends and colleagues. It’s open to all. The registration fee is P300 and this entitles you to a Meyrick Jacalan-designed shirt and a race bib. Raffle prizes will be given and there will be free Thirsty drinks for all.

The registration booth will open tomorrow until the end of next week at the Active Zone of Ayala Center (near Bo’s Coffee). Just bring your P300 and, subject to availability, you may immediately get your shirt. Then we’ll see you at the starting line next Sunday.

More on honesty, I’d like to leave you with these inspiring words: If it’s not right, don’t do it; if it’s not true, don’t say it. Simple. / Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it. / If you want to be trusted, just be honest. / Everybody wants the truth but nobody wants to be honest. / When in doubt, tell the truth. / If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. / And from St. Teresa: Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.

SEA Games

The Southeast Asian Games is held every two years. For the 29th edition, Malaysia is hosting 11 nations this August 19 to 30. There are nearly 5,000 athletes competing in 38 sports and 404 events and this will be the sixth time for Malaysia to host.

I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur once. This was 10 years ago to watch Roger Federer play Pete Sampras in the event, “Clash of Times.” Kualu Lumpur is impressive. With the Petronas Towers soaring above Malaysia’s capital, KL was named by CNN as the “world’s 4th best city for shopping.” It is also the seventh most visited city on this planet.

With the SEAG, the opening ceremonies will be this Saturday, the birthday of the best man in my wedding, my brother Charlie. Since Kuala Lumpur was awarded the hosting in 2012, it has prepared relentlessly. The main arena is the Bukit Jalil National Sports Complex, about 20 kms. from the city center, and its 1988-built stadium boasts of 87,411 seats.

An estimated (in Phil. pesos) P19 billion was allocated by Malaysia to prepare the infrastructure of the SEAG host nation. (Of the 36 venues, 19 will be in KL and 10 will be in Selangor; the other host-cities include Putrajaya and Negeri Sembilan.) To help save cost, they’ve upgraded existing facilities instead of building new ones.

There will also be no “athlete’s village” where Mary Joy Tabal, Alyssa Valdez and our flag-bearer, Kirstie Elaine Alora (of taekwondo), will stay in. The host country decided not to spend billions for new facilities that often become “white elephants.” Instead, they’re decided to house all the athletes, coaches and officials in dozens of hotels scattered near the venues.

Major sporting events are all about volunteerism. I’ve seen this first hand in the Olympics. For next week, when the announcement was made asking for volunteers, they received 50,000 online applications. Only 13,000 were chosen. But this tells us of the spirit of volunteerism of the Malaysians.

With the sporting events, there will be a total of 404 events in 38 sports. The choosing of which events to include, largely dependent on the host country, is often controversial.

One example is Indonesia. Back when it hosted the 2011 SEA Games, they included numerous non-Olympic events which resulted to them winning 476 medals, including 182 gold medals. They ranked No. 1. Two years later in Myanmar, their tally dropped by nearly half to 258 medals and, worse, in Singapore 2015, they collected only 182 medals (and 47 gold).

With next week’s hosting, I’m unsure if Malaysia is doing the same. But Thailand’s representative, Charoen Wattanasin, was quoted as saying last year, “Malaysia is taking advantage of other member countries. It has opted for its favourite sports — events in which it has high hopes — in the Games. It has a clear mission to get the medals from every sport in the Games. Even many traditional sports are missing. It is disappointing that Malaysia has ignored some good events as well.”

Speaking of our pride and joy, Mary Joy Tabal, did you know that Malaysia was planning to exclude the marathon in the SEAG? But thanks to an online petition from the running community, the 42K is back. Even better, the organizers will include the general public with 15K and 5K runs on the same marathon day, August 19.

Ironman swim

Two Augusts ago, I joined the individual category of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race. In years past, I joined the relay: pedaling the Vellum bike in 2012 and running in 2014. But in 2015, I decided to do the full event: a 1.9K swim, a 90K bike and 21K run.

I have been running and biking all my life. I’m a land-based creature. The swim? I know the freestyle stroke but I’m no fish; it took me months to get comfortable. On our open-water sessions in Mactan, I got jittery.

August 2, 2015. It was race morning and we warmed-up. When I dove into the Shangri-La waters at 7 a.m. and emerged one hour and 8 minutes later, it was one of the most challenging 68 minutes of my life. Of the swim’s 1,900 meters, there was a harrowing stretch of 850 meters where the current was so strong. By the end of the swim leg, the organizers had to extend the cutoff time (supposed to be 1:10) by more than 20 minutes. If not, hundreds would not have continued. And despite the extended time, 120 were cutoff.

Betsy Medalla, a top swim coach based in Manila who also organizes long-distance open-sea races, wrote an excellent post-event analysis. The cause of the unusual current was the “spring tide.”

“On August 2, (2015) today, in Cebu, the tidal range was OVER FIVE FEET.  Think of that as a five foot wave of water coming into shore, spread out over six hours,” wrote Betsy in her blog, justaddwaterph.blogspot.com.

That was two years ago. Will it be another “spring tide” this weekend? When I met Brian Lim during the Bike Out last Sunday, he mentioned about the very strong current when they did an open-sea swim on Saturday. It was similar to 2015, he said. This was the same comment of Andre Borromeo, who swam for two kms. and found the Mactan waters tough with high waves.

So, what’s the forecast?

“August 6 (this Sunday) is NOT a spring tide date,” wrote Betsy yesterday in her blog post. “The next spring tide in Cebu is on August 9. So the conditions will definitely not be as bad as 2015, but we are close enough to make things interesting.”

Based on her study, the projected change in tide is 3.2 feet and the fastest surge will be between 5:30 to 7:30 a.m.

“In 2015, the tide change was roughly five feet,” Betsy said. “This year, we are expecting a much smaller volume of water moving in our direction. However, this is the Hilutungan channel and as I mentioned in the 2015 post, currents and tides are amplified when forced through a tighter space. So expect the 850m stretch of the course to be challenging. Hope you did your paddles and pullbuoy work early in the training program.

“As far as timing of the tide shift goes, in 2015 the racers who left in the last few batches suffered worst. This year, it is one for all! Yeay! We are starting and swimming in the thick of it. In fact, the force of it will be ebbing by 7:30am so .. I don’t know if you want to use that information to your advantage.”

Betsy, who was the first Asian (with Julian Valencia) to complete the Robben Island Channel crossing, swimming for 8.6 kms., is concerned with the stormy weather (in Luzon) the past week.

“The habagat and monsoon winds have been whipped up by two successive storms and all of that built up energy may carry into the end of the week,” she said. “It looks to be a windy, gusty weekend and that may lead to surface chop, and possibly swells.”

Coach Betsy offers these suggestions: Focus on your STREAMLINE. Reduce drag as much as possible and that includes: 1) Keeping your hips up; 2) Don’t pull with a straight arm; 3) Don’t lift your head up to breathe, keep it low; 4) Maintain your momentum.

Visit justaddwaterph.blogpost.com.