BASKETBALL is everywhere in the country; goals are attached to trees, lamp posts and walls.
From one-on-ones to baranggay leagues to recreational leagues, from school leagues to commercial leagues, from the pro leagues and to the international tournaments – our country has an insatiable affection to a game not exactly suited to our sizes, never mind if joining the world stage almost always is an exercise in futility. The crash dive Gilas had during the last FIBA World Cup in China was a testament to this.
But recent international sports development entirely unrelated to our misconceived love affair with basketball had kindled interest among several observers.
Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and gymnast Carlos Yulo both qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning golds in their events.
Obiena did it at the 2019 Summer Universiade in Naples, Italy. Yulo won the floor exercises in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Atuttgart, Germany. Both are training overseas.
Not to be outdone, two of our female athletes also won golds in their respective disciplines, coincidentally on the same dates, Oct. 13. Nesthy Petecio, who had been boxing since she was seven years old, won the gold in the featherweight division at the 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia, beating a taller Russian opponent.
Petecio, a 12-year vet on the PH boxing team, is currently ranked No. 2 in AIBA’s women’s 57kg division.
Doing karate since she was six years old, Jamie Lim struck gold at the 2019 Karate Championships in Sakarya, Turkey. She dominated over her taller opponent from the host nation; she topped the 68kg women’s kumite.
Seven other PH teammates produced medals in the event – three silvers and four bronzes. Standing at 5’8, Jamie is the only child of the original Skywalker, PBA’s Samboy Lim, and is doing her own version of skywalking.
We had proven ourselves against the Spanish and American colonizers and defended well against the Japanese during World War 2. From Lapu-Lapu to Leon Kilat, to the WW2 guerillas and to the brave men and women of the police and the armed forces. We are gifted with the agility and ability to counter aggression that it is but natural for us to easily adapt to combat sports.
Likewise, with our size, speed and nimbleness, we are much suited for track and field events. Just imagine the dexterity of jaywalkers dodging speeding vehicles on highways and the notoriety of snatchers who routinely evade chasing lawmen.
To the best of my knowledge, only one boxer had defeated a Russian on the square ring. Apollo Creed tried and died that frenemy Rocky Balboa took revenge and spun cobwebs on the supposedly indestructible Ivan Drago. In the truer setting, even Sen. Manny Pacquiao haven’t fought nor won over a Russian boxer. Then, less than a week ago, Nesthy Petecio did the unexpected on foreign soil, just like Rocky Balboa.
We are traditionally a force in international boxing competitions. Likewise, our martial artists are giving exceptional performances. I don’t know if it is being done already but it would be nice if the national sporting associations involved would pour more resources in the training and development of these athletes.
Except for the more affluent schools, most of our elementary and high schools around the country lack the facilities and equipment for training. These schools could focus more in martial arts as training can be held inside a vacant classroom. I’m sure that if done properly, we will have a strong talent pool.
Let’s give more love and affection to our track and combat sport athletes. They have the most potential to produce medals in international competitions.
Let basketball take a backseat. Admittedly, it is an exciting and glamorous sport and millions upon millions of pesos had already been spent yet, we still suck in the world stage./PN