National athletes vs. mother associations

By December 5, 2021Sports Eye

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

THE impasse between our national pole vault player EJ Obiena and his mother association PATAFA (Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association) is still unresolved. With Obiena calming down showing some signs of compassion and reconciliation, PATAFA headed by Philip Juico is obstinate. He continues his own investigation into the alleged dubious liquidation documents submitted by Obiena regarding payments of coaching honorarium to his Ukrainian mentor Vitaly Petrov during his training in Italy.

In fact, Obiena who now ranks 5th in the world turned down the lucrative offers and citizenship from other countries and stressed that he will remain Filipino. “I will never abandon my nation just because of money. I love my country and I’m proud to compete for the Philippine flag.” said the six-foot-two lanky 26 year-old Tondo, Manila-born Obiena.

This brouhaha in national sports is not new to me. Yes, because I was also a victim of exploitation and unfair practices during my younger days as an amateur national cyclist. After passing the 1964 National Amateur Road Race Cycling Championship under the national cycling body, the Philippine Amateur Cycling Association (PACA) where I landed fifth, the late Atty. Geruncio Lacuesta, PACA president, selected the top six finishers of the road race: Cornelio Padilla, Jr., Roberto Sanchez, this writer, Daniel Olivares, my province mate Felizardo Perdido of Manaoag and Norberto Arceo.  Lacuesta had explained that we have to face multiple national trials and the top four finishers after the strenuous trials including the 14-day 1964 Tour of Luzon (organized by Lacuesta himself) will finally be chosen to don the colors of the Philippine flag in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Our six-man amateur squad skippered by the late Padilla, Jr., landed second beating the Pangasinan team that finished third but it was, the Ilocandia squad (composed of all Pangasinan cyclists headed by defending individual champion Gonzalo Recodos of Manaoag) that won the team tiara. Luckily, I won two of the 14 stages. The 220 kilometers run 11th stage from Laoag, Ilocos Norte to San Fernando, La Union and the 136 kilometers penultimate lap from Baguio City to Binalonan, Pangasinan, and placed third in the concluding 14th stage, the 210 kilometers from Binalonan to Rizal Memorial Track and Field Stadium in Manila. Padilla who won the short but punishing 29 kilometers individual-time-trial all-mountain 12th stage from Burgos, La Union to Baguio City, finally finished sixth while our assistant team captain Roberto Sanchez finished 12th while I placed 18th in the overall standings, respectively. In short, in all the trials that we did, I always placed third and never dropped to fourth after Padilla and Sanchez.

But a week after the Tour, I was stunned to receive a message from PACA office that I was excluded in the Philippine national team for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Their reason? I lacked discipline.

Disheartened and pissed off, I turned professional the following year (1965 Tour of Luzon) at young 19 years of age, purposely to prove to them that they were very wrong. So, they were embarrassed when I bagged the first runner-up plum.  (The late Jose Sumalde of the Bicol team successfully defended his crown to become the second cyclist in the country to bag the back-to-back honor after Antonio Arzala of Sta. Rosa, Laguna).

Yes, unlike Obiena’s case, obviously I was a victim of favoritism. But a reliable source told me in May 1973 that money also played a major role regarding my exclusion.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 TIMOTHY 6: 10

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