Sports Eye

What went wrong Gilas, PH cyclists?


By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

INDUBITABLY, basketball is our country’s number one favorite sport. In fact, world sports pundits are wondering why we love this sport so much knowing that this is a game of height which obviously Filipinos lack. But yes, we used to dominate Asia’s caging during Carlos Loyzaga and Robert Jaworki’s eras in 1950’s to 70’s, but not anymore. The best that we can do in this generation is to be the second best in Asia, if at all. See what happened this year in the just concluded FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon.

True, we convincingly defeated the defending champion China, 96-87, routed Iraq, 84-68, and subdued Qatar, 80-74, during the qualifying round that paved our Gilas team to enter the quarterfinals in this year’s FIBA Asia Cup. But as “expect the unexpected” saying goes, our touted and perennial title-contender Gilas was shockingly shamed by South Korea by 32 points in their first quarterfinal game, 118-86, and by the host Lebanon, 106-87. We were lucky to escape a 75-70 victory over Jordan to finish seventh place overall out of 16 countries. This was one of our worst performances since we started joining the Asia tilt despite beefing up our Gilas team a numerous Fil-foreign players.

Clearly, our Asian neighbors vastly improved in this sport while we are just progressing gradually. Something is wrong and I believe national head coach Chot Reyes knows the answer.

What happened to the Gilas was no different on what happened to our Philippine national cycling squad in the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The best our national men and women road racers did was to finish fourth, three times. Even our very own Marella Salamat of Bugallon who won gold in 2015 Singapore SEAG could only manage fourth place in the criterium and road races.

Gone were the days when our nationals Victor Espiritu, Domingo Villanueva, Norberto Oconer, Llyod Reynante and Pangasinan-son Alfie Catalan were reaping and ensnaring gold medals in this biennial meet. Like our national basketball squad, something is quite wrong in our national cycling development.

A certain official of our national cycling body PhilCycling and a former national road race champion who wished to remain unnamed, intimated to me before the SEAG this year that something is very wrong in the national cycling association. He said favoritism in selecting the national team continues. He pointed out that most of the national cycling officials never became competitive cyclists and have a very little knowledge about cycling.  He actually even suspects that some of these great pretender cycling leaders don’t even know how to ride a bicycle.

What a mess and a shame. “Only in the Philippines,” as the saying goes. I told him (with a sheepish smile) that his observations are no longer new to me. I told him that I was also a victim of “palakasan” system during the selection of the national team for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yes, I no longer wonder why most of our nationals cannot win a medal even in minor international meets like SEAG because of this cancerous practice. President Digong must take a closer look at these oft-repeated irregularities if he truly wants a real change in sports development.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ROMANS: 6: 22-23

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