Category Archives: Rene Herrera

Snapshots from London 2012

In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, and broadband connections, it is a lot easier to be a sports fan. One can subscribe to their favorite athlete on Twitter and Facebook, and get instantaneous updates straight from those sports personalities. Social media work hand-in-hand with traditional media to create a multi-dimensional sporting experience.

Olympian Rene Herrera and journalist Ed Lao share some of their photos from the hustle and bustle of faraway London.

For more London 2012 updates, please subscribe to Rene Herrera’s Facebook page.

Ed Lao, Rene Herrera, Marestella Torres, and Joseph Sy. (Photo from Ed Lao)

Philippines reprezent! Rene proudly sports his Hypersports shirt as Jasmine Alkhaldi flaunts her PH credentials. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

The Philippine delegation with members of the Filipino community. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Team Philippines enjoying a sumptuous Filipino meal. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Marestella Torres looking relaxed, despite the gloomy weather! (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Rene Herrera is all smiles as the Olympic Games draw near. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

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Godspeed to Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera!

The Philippines will be sending two representatives to the Athletics competition in the London Olympics – long jumper Marestella Torres and steeplechaser Rene Herrera.

The 32-year old Torres is the national record holder for both the long jump (6.71m) and the triple jump (12.67m). She is a multiple Southeast Asian Games long jump  gold medalist. Upsetting the biggest names in regional long jumping, Marestella won the 2009 Asian Championships title in Guangzhou. The powerfully compact Torres is a veteran of numerous major international events, having competed in three editions of the World Championships  and three in the World Indoors. Her season’s best stands at 6.62m. Marestella is on her second Olympic team.

Read: “London Olympics Preview: The Long Jump”

Like Torres, Herrera is a multi-titled national athlete. He has won five Southeast Asian Games gold medals in the 3000m steeplechase, from 2003 to 2011. The 33-year old has made the final in two editions of the Asian Games, an event spiced with a multitude of African-born athletes. He has a personal best of 8:49.39. His best time in 2012 is 9:05.84, set while winning the National Championships in Dumaguete. Rene will make his Olympic debut in London.

Torres has what it takes to barge into the long jump final, but it’s going to be an uphill climb as she goes head-to-head against a multitude of 7-meter and near-7 meter jumpers. The rainy and soggy London weather might just level the playing field a bit.

The Philippines’ hopes in Olympic Athletics might not be at par with the world’s best, but this won’t keep me from cheering my compatriots. Godspeed to Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera!

Sources:

All-Athletics

IAAF

Hoping for the Best

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

I was ten years old when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Even though I have hazy memories of the fight, I can still feel the disappointment. Since then, our best Olympic hopes had fallen in the last three editions of the quadrennial event. Like the rest of the nation, I kept my hopes up each time our fancied amateur boxers and taekwondo jins donned the national colors in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing.

But an Olympic gold, much less a medal, has remained elusive.

I find it farcical each time our sports officials and politicians dangle cash incentives to our athletes, months or weeks prior the Games.  Although it would surely add to the motivation for doing well, training for Olympic Glory takes more than just financial rewards. Even if our athletes excel in regional-level competitions, the international scene is several notches higher. You can’t turn a Southeast Asian Games medalist into an Olympic contender overnight. Our propensity for cramming is not a tried and tested approach to Olympic success.

Amidst all the internal bickering in Philippine sports and its structural flaws, I found myself disillusioned in the run-up to the London Olympics. I have written numerous articles on past Olympic champions from other countries. Except for the sporting feats of our past champions, but my mind goes blank each time I juxtapose the Philippines and the London Olympics.

As an athlete myself, I’ve always been enamored the Olympic ideal. The founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, makes an apt description: “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well.” In the years I’ve spent devouring all sorts of media about the Olympics, I consider John Stephen Akhwari’s and Derek Redmond’s experiences as the most moving.

Akwhari was a Tanzanian marathoner who finished dead last at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968. Despite a painful knee injury, he hobbled on to the finish line to the loud cheers of the few spectators and volunteers left. Redmond competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. At the 400m dash semifinal, he pulled a hamstring midway into the race.  In tears and in obvious pain, the Briton bravely limped to complete the race, as his father ran to him from the stands.

Aside from sports like professional boxing, basketball, billiards and bowling, being a Filipino athlete is not a lucrative profession. Government support and public interest are scant, paling in comparison to the more established sporting nations. The national training facilities, at best, are spartan. To reach for one’s Olympic dreams is a struggle both athletic and financial.

As a Filipino, I’m hoping for a good result in London. Deep down, however, I know for a fact that another Olympic shut-down is possible. There will be finger-pointing when this happens, perhaps even a congressional inquiry. Expect to hear the usual pronouncements of new nation-wide sporting program. It’s all part of the vicious cycle of Philippine sports.

Our sports officials can bicker all they want, but one thing is for certain: our athletes are doing their utmost best under the circumstances  The distinction of competing at the world’s highest stage is an achievement in itself.

The beauty of sport lies in the unexpected. Sometimes, the enormity of the moment could enable an athlete to transcend and deliver. Perhaps if the stars align in favor of the Philippines, one of our athletes might just reach the podium.

I long for the day when a Filipino finally tops an Olympic event. When I do see our athlete stand on top of the podium and hear “Lupang Hinirang” play in the background, I might just shed tears of joy. Until that moment comes, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

To the Filipino Olympians, godspeed!

The Philippine Contingent to the 2012 London Olympics

Mark Javier (Archery)

Rachel Cabral (Archery)

Rene Herrera (Athletics)

Marestella Torres (Athletics)

Mark Barriga (Boxing)

Daniel Caluag (BMX)

Tomoko Hoshina (Judo)

Brian Rosario (Shooting)

Jessie Khing Lacuna (Swimming)

Jasmine Alkhaldi (Swimming)

Hidilyn Diaz (Weightlifting)

Olympic Non-Participation

To be able to qualify for Olympic-level athletics, the aspiring athlete must meet a particular set of performance standards in specific span of time. For the men’s 100m dash, in example, there are the “A” and “B” standards, 10.18s and 10.24s, respectively. Ralph Soguilon’s 100m dash national record at 10.45s is more than two-tenths of a second slower than the “B” standard – light years away from  an outright Olympic slot. Such is the case for most of our national records.

Amongst our elite athletes, Marestella Torres is the lone exception. En route to winning the 2011 SEA Games Long Jump gold, Torres went beyond the 6.65m “B” standard by six centimeters. Her 6.71m national record is more than enough for an outright Olympic slot.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a story about Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera being given the mandatory athletics slots* for the 2012 London Olympics. I was particularly disturbed by the nonchalant tone. There was hardly any mention of the Olympic entry standards, save for single line from Go Teng Kok. Has Philippine athletics sunk so low that not qualifying for an Olympic slot has become the norm?

It’s sad to say that the answer is a resounding yes. Filipino track & field athletes have fallen so far behind the curve. Blame it on the sports officials, the media, the Philippine propensity for basketball or corruption: the fact remains that we are at the bottom of the athletics heap. If our homegrown boxers, swimmers, archers and taekwondo jins can bag Olympic berths, I’m sure our track & field athletes (with ample support, of course) can do the same.

One can harp about bagging dozens of medals in the Southeast Asian Games or dominating the general standings, even (think about the 2005 Manila SEA Games). But this doesn’t necessarily translate into Olympic success – or at the very least, Olympic participation. News of the Philippines fielding the smallest Olympic contingent in recent memory has been met with indifference. In contrast, the SEA Games debacle went, for a time, into the national headlines.

So long as our athletes struggle to even qualify for the world’s most prestigious sporting spectacle – as long as we prioritize low-key regional meets over the biggest stage of sport – I’m afraid that our dream of Olympic Gold will be no more than a far-flung fantasy.

* – Torres’ slot could be given to Melvin Guarte, should Torres’ 6.71m is formally recognized as meeting the “B” standard.

Thoughts on the 26th SEA Games

I’ve been reading about the Philippine athletics results  in the ongoing 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. To date, Filipinos have won only two gold medals, courtesy of Marestella Torres (Gold, Women’s Long Jump) and Rene Herrera (Gold, Men’s 3,000m Steeplechase).  Other defending champions did not fare as well as Torres and Herrera, with the likes of Arniel Ferrera (Silver, Hammer Throw), Rosie Villarito (Silver, Javelin Throw) and Henry Dagmil, To the casual observer, the initial reaction would be one of disappointment. After all, two gold medals is way off the target of six set by the NSA president, Mr. Go Teng Kok.

Come to think of it, we’ve been relying on these marquee names for the past decade. Most of our top athletes are in their thirties. The sport demands much from one’s body. Hence, it is unsurprising to see the likes of former champions win silver medals, instead of golds. Considering the fact that athletics in the Philippines is a fringe sport, our sporting heroes should be lauded. Aside from lucrative, mainstream sports, being a Filipino athlete isn’t exactly the most lucrative of careers.

Despite missing the fighting target, it’s good to see young turks like Melvin Guarte and Archand Bagsit excelling in regional competition. The 20-year old Bagsit snatched the silver medal in the 400m dash, thanks to a blistering finish, on top of his 4x400m relay silver. Guarte, still a junior, won silver medals in the 800m and 1500m runs, setting national senior and junior records in the former.

Regardless of how disorganized our local athletics scene is, the exploits of our young athletes speak volumes about the enormous potential of Philippine track & field. Should the ills of athletics and Philippine sports be miraculously cured, expect the Filipino athlete excel not just in the Southeast Asian Games, but also in the world stage.

*Special thanks to Yell Carreon and Andrew “The Ernie Baron of Philippine Athletics” Pirie for the SEA Games updates

Additional Links:

Pinoymiler’s SEA Games articles

Jad Adrian’s SEA Games write-ups

19th Asian Athletics Championships Rundown

The Asian championships were held in the Japanese city of Kobe from 8-11 July 2011. This is the region’s most prestigious competition, a good warm-up for the Daegu World Championships in August. The big guns of Asian athletics took center stage, despite the absence of a few. Japan (11-10-11), according to an IAAF report, topped the medal standings for the first time since 1981, edging out powerhouse China (10-12-5).

Liu Xiang 刘翔, as expected, lorded it over the sprint hurdles field, setting a new championship record of 13.22s. Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 (13.56s) was a far second as he overtook South Korean veteran Park Tae-Kyong 박태경 (13.66s). Thailand’s Chamras Rittedet was the fastest Southeast Asian as he went under the thirteen second barrier (13.96s). Malaysia’s Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian ran 14.03s.

Mutaz Essa Barshim‘s 2.35m winning mark in the high jump was, without a doubt, the highlight of the meet. The reigning World Junior Champion tied the second best mark in 2011, en route to setting his nth Qatari record. Barshim, at merely 20 years of age, is a potential medalist in Daegu – should he overcome the nerves of high-level senior competition.

Read Jad Adrian’s posts on the Kobe Asian Champs here

Read Pinoymiler’s post here

The Philippine delegation came home empty-handed, as defending long jump champion Marestella Torres missed out on a podium finish. The Filipino record holder could only managed a best leap of 6.34m in the fourth round, way off her 6.51m winning jump in Guangzhou two years ago. Torres has a season’s best of 6.38m, set in Bacolod during the PNG. Rene Herrera clocked 9:12.34 in the 3,000m steeplechase, good enough for eighth place in a race dominated by naturalized Africans. Arniel Ferrera, meanwhile, narrowly missed the sixty-meter mark in the hammer throw (59.25m), placing ninth in a field of eleven. Ferrera set a season’s best in Kobe. Heptathlete Narcisa Atienza scored 5,041 points and ranked seventh.

As expected, Japan’s 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Yukifumi Murakami 村上 幸史 dominated the javelin throw his 83.27m fourth round flick. Murakami’s third round throw of 80.93m was also better than Jae-Myoung Park’s 80.19m.

Host country Japan stamped its class on every single relay event. The winning margins were quite massive. The Japanese men won by a straightforward eight-hundredths of second in the 4x100m relay over the Hong Kong squad, which surprisingly beat regional powers China and the slick-passing Thais.

On the distaff side, Japan was even more dominant. Anchored by 200m gold medalist Chisato Fukushima 福島 千里, the Japanese women led by a comfortable 0.18s over the Chinese.

In a high quality men’s long jump competition, four men went beyond eight meters. Su Xiongfeng won gold with his 8.19m leap second round leap. The 2009 World Youth Champion, Suphanara Sukhasvasti, clinched second with 8.05m. According to Jad Adrian, this is the best ever jump by a Southeast Asian.

Despite the absence of 2010 World Indoor Champion Olga Rypakova, Xie Limei 谢荔梅 entertained the Japanese crowd with her world-class 14.54m mark in the women’s triple jump. Uzbekistan’s Valeriya Kanatova (14.14m) placed second as India’s Mayookha Johny മയൂഖ ജോണി won bronze en route to setting a 14.11m Indian record.

Additional links:

IAAF article (Day 1)

IAAF article (Day 2)

IAAF article (Day 3)

IAAF article (Day 4)

Full results from the JAAF

Videos

Aoshin0507’s Youtube account

The Philippine Asiad Athletics Campaign

The Philippine Amateur Track & Field Association (PATAFA), one of the country’s best-performing NSA’s sent a crack team of Southeast Asian Games champions in the likes of hammer thrower Arniel Ferrera, steeplechaser Rene Herrera and distance runner Eduardo Buenavista. Henry Dagmil, a near 8.00-meter long jumper, and javelin throwers Danilo Fresnido and Rosie Villarito, also competed.

The Rundown

The Philippines sent its best athletes, led by 2010 Asian long jump champion Marestella Torres, to the Guangzhou Asiad, only to come home empty-handed. The Philippine athletics medal drought continues, with the country’s best hope, Torres, losing the bronze medal on count back.

  • Marestella Torres (4th, Women’s long jump)
  • Henry Dagmil (6th, Men’s long jump)
  • Rosie Villarito (9th, Women’s javelin throw)
  • Arniel Ferrera (9th, Men’s hammer throw)
  • Danilo Fresnido (10th, Men’s javelin throw)
  • Rene Herrera (13th, Men’s 3,000m steeplechase)
  • Eduardo Buenavista (17th, Men’s marathon)

Read “Torres Lands 4th at the Asian Games”

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 2 round-up

Photo from Daylife and Zimbio

Aside from Torres, the closest to the medal standings was Dagmil at 6th place with his 7.45m leap. The Men’s long jump was won by South Korea’s Kim Deok-hyeon’s (김덕현). The Olympic and World Championships veteran was far from his lifetime best of 7.99m and his season’s best of 7.77m.

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 3 round-up

Read “South Korea’s Twin Long Jump Golds”

Photo from Zimbio and Getty Images

SEA Games hammer throw record-holder Arniel Ferrera placed 9th (58.06m). Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov topped the field with his 76.44m heave. Likewise, Herrera finished 13th in the 3,000m steeplechase despite stopping the clock at season’s best of 9:02.93. The event was won by Tareq Mubarak Taher (8:25.89), a Kenyan-born Bahraini.

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 1 round-up

Photos from Daylife and Getty Images

The ageless Danilo Fresnido threw the javelin to 70.35m, good enough for 10th. Japan’s 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Yukifumi Murakami 村上 幸史 dominated the competition with his 83.15m mark. On the distaff side, Rosie Villarito (48.87m) finished second to the last at the women’s javelin throw competition. Japan scored a golden double in the javelin with Ebihira Yuki’s winning heave of 61.56 m.

Read GMA7’s article on Asiad penultimate day

Read Pinoymiler’s article on the Asiad Javelin Throw and Marathon

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 4 round-up

Buenavista, the country’s long-time distance running ace, ran a puzzling if not utterly shocking race in the Men’s marathon (2:45.07), a far cry from his national record of 2:18.44. According to a report by the Manila Standard, Buenavista will be facing a PATAFA inquiry on his Asiad performance. (As an athlete myself – and a huge admirer of Vertek – I do not want to judge. Let us hear it from the man himself. For all we know, he could have been nursing an injury. Let us keep in mind that Vertek has competed with distinction for Flag and Country in countless other meets).

Post-mortem

SEA Games success does not automatically translate into Asian Games success. Save for Torres and Dagmil, the level of competition in the Asiad was simply too much for our best track & field athletes. The government and the private sector did not spend millions on our track & field athletes, unlike the Smart Gilas Basketball team which finished 6th overall Filipino track athletes, like most Filipino athletes not playing in the PBA or not named Manny Pacquiao, are marginalized. Our lone IAAF-accredited stadium is currently under renovation with much controversy. Even if Torres and Dagmil had training and competition stints abroad, our domestic jumping facilities pale in comparison with our Asian neighbors.

The rest of the Asiad athletics campaigners aren’t as well-supported like Torres and Dagmil.

Indeed, you reap what you sow.

With their circumstances in mind, I cannot in all honesty lay the blame on our athletes alone. In fact, I’m welling up with much admiration for those eight brave souls – to go against Asia’s best for one’s motherland is an honor accorded to so few!

But then again, the words of POC’s Romasanta (a former Gintong Alay official) sounds promising. He emphasized focus on medal rich sports like gymnastics, swimming and athletics. I am not lambasting the well-meaning support of Smart for the country’s national basketball program since like most Filipinos, I’m a basketball fanatic as well. I’m just hoping that some kind corporate entity back an honest-to-goodness athletics program, similar to golf’ and shooting’s respective grassroots development schemes.

I’m a firm believer that a million pesos spent in the course of an athlete’s years-long preparation is money well-spent than a million peso reward given after winning a SEA Games, Asian Games or Olympic Gold.

Sources:

Gma7 news

Pinoymiler

Gz2010.cn

Yahoo News

IAAF

Wikipedia

Liu Xiang (刘翔) and the Asian Games

Since it’s Asian Games time again, I couldn’t help but watch  Liu Xiang’s 刘翔 gold medal-winning performances in Busan and Doha.  The 2002 Busan race was memorable. I was just starting out with the sport. I became an instant Liu Xiang fan once I saw him race! I even recorded the event on VHS; hence the grainy format.

Read my “Sidekicks” post on Liu Xiang

2002 Busan Asian Games – 110m High Hurdles (from Todor Krastev):

  1. Liu Xiang 刘翔 (CHN) – 13.27s
  2. Satoru Tanigawa (JPN) – 13.83s
  3. Park Tae-Kyong 박태경 (KOR) – 13.89s
  4. Dongpeng Shi    史冬鹏 CHN    13.92s
  5. Mubarak Atah    SAR    14.07s
  6. Mohammed Aissa Al-Thawadi    QAT    14.26s
  7. Mohd Faiz Mohammed    MAS    14.57s
  8. Jung-Ho Lee    KOR    14.61s
Satoru Tanigawa of Japan was a far second, almost six hundredths of a second behind the then 19-year Liu Xiang. 18-year old Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 – the other half of the high hurdling Chinese duo – dropped out of contention for the medals after he clipped a hurdle. 2002 was the year Liu Xiang broke Renaldo Nehemiah’s world junior record, when the latter stopped the clock at 13.12s (over senior hurdles, not the junior ones!) in Lausanne, Switzerland.Fast-forward four years later in the Doha edition of the Asiad. Liu Xiang is now a household name in China, with world championship bronze and silver medals, an Olympic gold and a world record (12.88s, also set in Lausanne) to his name.

Liu was a monster in the race. He was a lot quicker in between hurdles; his technical proficiency was at a different level. Liu was the epitome of the complete sprint hurdler. Now 23-year old, Liu was approaching the peak of his physical fitness. The winning margin was not as glaring as in 2002, since Shi Dong Peng is a decent hurdler in his own right. Liu clocked 13.15s as he practically jogged to the tape once the victory was his. Big Shi ran a respectable 13.28s, one-hundredths of a second off Liu’s winning time four years ago.
2006 Doha Asian Games – 110m High Hurdles (from Wikipedia)
  1.     Liu Xiang (CHN) – 13.15s
  2.     Shi Dong Peng (CHN) – 13.28s
  3.     Naito Masato (JPN) – 13.60s
  4.     Park Tae-Kyong (KOR) – 13.67s
  5.     Tasuku Takonaka (JPN) – 13.88s
  6.     Mohammed Essa Al-Thawadi (KSA) – 13.89s
  7.     Lee Jung-Joon (KOR) – 13.91s
  8.     Hassan Mohd Robani (MAS) – 14.04s
Comparing the results of the two editions, one can see the dramatic increase in the level of competition. If the 2002 silver medalist, Tanigawa (13.83s) ran in Doha, he would have placed a dismal fifth! Perhaps the improvement in the quality of performances can be attributed to Liu Xiang’s rise to the top – and the subsequent emergence of the sprint hurdles as the centerpiece event in Asian athletics.Under much criticism, Liu was given a “free pass” to the Guangzhou Asian Games. The 2004 Olympic Champion was allowed to miss the national championships, in light of his recovery from his troublesome Achilles. I personally believe that an athlete of Liu’s stature should be given this special treatment. It’s not like he doesn’t deserve the extra lee-way. Despite all the challenges, I wish the best for my idol!

Also, godspeed to all the Filipino athletes competing in the 2011 Asiad, especially the tracksters – Arniel Ferrera (Hammer Throw), Mariz Torres (Long Jump), Henry Dagmil (Long Jump), Rosie Villarito (Javelin Throw), Danilo Fresnido (Javelin Throw), Rene Herrera (Steeplechase) and Eduardo Buenavista (Marathon).

Additional links:

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