Category Archives: Charlie Ducusin

Payback (13 April 2008)

Since it’s Unigames time again, allow me to resurrect another one of my old entries. I wrote this piece during the dark months after UAAP 70. I was then unemployed and had lots of free time. I was still dealing with my ignominious UAAP exit; I wrote quite a lot of entries in an effort to face reality head on.

Read the original entry

Good luck to the Ateneo Men’s and Women’s Track & Field Teams! Bring home the bacon!

Panaad Stadium circa 2006. One my favorite stadia in the Philippines.

The sun shone brightly. It was a perfect Negros afternoon.The final heat of the 110m high hurdles was about to start, but I was on the stands videotaping an event wherein I wanted so badly to run.

A day earlier, I faltered in the qualifying heat, clocking a measly 17.9s, way slower than my then-PB of 16.9s. I was a sophomore back then and my warm-up routine was not yet refined. Furthermore, my hurdling fundamentals were built upon shaky ground. I was entered as a late replacement for Tim Robles (who instead focused on the upcoming 400m dash final) in the 4x100m relay. I ran my leg superbly, but ultimately, the quartet wound up with a 4th place finish.

Still tired from the relay, my hurdling warm-up proved ineffective. I got out of the blocks slower than usual, floated over each barrier and sprinted lackadaisically in between each hurdle. It was supposed to be my breakout race, after breaking the 17-second barrier for the first time. I was devastated. I sobbed at the dugout and vowed there and then that I shall have my redemption.

The same feeling pretty much summed up the emotions of the men’s team. We came to Bacolod with the intention of actually winning something, but wound up with virtually nothing but two measly 4th place finishes. Despite the best of our efforts in training and in competition, we were simply outclassed.

Two years later, the team was back in Bacolod for Unigames 2006. Things were different. It was a strong and vicious team. The greenhorns were now battle-hardened veterans.

Unigames 2006 was the very first podium finish for the men’s team. Nearly everyone brought home medals. The performances of Rob Sargan and Ryan Dalman were inspiring. And the supporting cast gave ample support.

My experience was bittersweet. Bitter, because I could have done better if I didn’t get sick or got carried away by matters of the heart. Sweet, because I finally had my redemption.

A few days before the qualifying heat, I was already feeling the initial effects of an upcoming tonsillitis case. My throat felt itchy, my body burning with fever. My condition deteriorated. In fact, the night before the race, I was wrapped up in mountains of clothing and blankets to stay warm. I even turned off the air-conditioning in our room because of the unbearable cold, much to the chagrin of my roommates!

I was in disbelief at the unfortunate turn of events. I was nearing the peak of my collegiate career. I was aggressive and deeply inspired, eager to finally make up for that disaster two years ago. This was yet another case of my out-of-town competition jinx.*

But through a lot of prayers (and due to my mom’s concoction of calamansi and virgin honey), I felt a lot better in the morning. The fever had subsided and I actually felt great.

That time around, my warm-up routine was solid and effective. I was focused on the task at hand. Nothing could have shaken me from my fearsome determination to run the perfect race. I felt unusually fast before the heats. I felt so pumped up. My legs were raring to go. After my warm-up sprints over three flights of hurdles, I pumped my fists with glee. I liked what I felt. I was a very dangerous man back then.

I was slated to run in the first heat. The USPF athlete beside me, the National Junior Champion and the PRISAA champion, got out of the blocks early; hence, a yellow card was charged to the entire field. I was in for a great battle, I told myself. I love going head-to-head against strong sprinters despite my dearth of speed.

Evenly-matched (Photo from Charles Banez)

My start was quite good as the USPF athlete’s [Harren Millendez edged out my teammate Mike Mendoza during the 2006 Nationals] lead was a mere 1/4 of a step. As I cleared more hurdles, I felt my engine change into higher gear. I ate up his lead gradually. By the 7th hurdle, we were sprinting abreast. His speed was no match for my quick clearing. As soon as I sprinted over the last hurdle, I was somehow amazed at finishing ahead of everybody. It was surreal.

Frankly speaking I was not used to this. I sprinted the last 14.02m to the finish line in a blistering pace, diving emphatically to the tape.

15.2s! A new PB! (Photo from Charles Banez)

I ran a then personal best: 15.2s. As I went back to get my stuff, I was nodding my head and pumping my fist in self-adulation.

I could not seem to duplicate the same degree of intensity in the final heat the next day. Perhaps, it was due to the fever, which immediately came back as soon as the events of the first day ended. I finished a far third behind Orlando Soriano and Gabriel Quezada, with a fairly average 15.6 clocking [still ahead of a fast-finishing Mike Mendoza – the future 3-time UAAP gold medalist!].

Nevertheless, I was smiling at the finish line. I just ran in the finals despite being ill; I won’t be going home empty-handed.

P.S.

Soriano and Quezada appeared at the Inquirer sports pages the day after. A good 2/3 of my body was included in the photo too!

Partially-hidden! (Photo from Maita Mendoza)

* –  I ALWAYS get ill (In my first Unigames in 2003, I was stricken with asthma and fever. In Baguio 2005, I was down with fever and asthma and in Nationals 2006 in Nueva Ecija, stomach flu and fever).

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Afterword

My most eloquent moments seem to come at the heels of heartbreak. I wrote the following piece days after my final UAAP. My confidence was shattered; I was aimless. A months-long period of emotional erosion – then healing – took place.

Now that I’m older (and wiser, hopefully), looking back at these turbulent yet formative chapters evokes fond feelings of nostalgia.

11 February 2008

Ah the race.

That race.

I tried to stay with the leaders during the first part of my relay leg, but decided against it after the 180m mark. I disengaged and coasted for about 50m, stayed in position for another 70m, but as I prepared for the final burst my legs simply could not go faster. We were in 5th place when I passed the baton to Mike Mendoza. Even though Mike and JP Azcueta overtook DLSU to get 4th place, we simply could not meet the targets that were set. I put the blame entirely on myself. If I only stayed with the race leaders all throughout. If only I had more speed endurance – more heart.

It was like February 2006 again, when the team failed to win 3rd place by a measly 4.5 points behind UE. Only this time, we lost a bigger prize, the 1st-runner up trophy by the infinitesimal amount of 3.5 points.

Again, there are a variety of “what-if” scenarios, with the aforementioned 4x400m race included. It’s a Pandora’s Box of situations that hardly does any good. But hey, we scored the highest ever aggregate score among all the Ateneo Men’s Track & Field teams that have competed through the years. So many people rose to the occasion and excelled.

I remember writing something several years back, about giving it your all and owing it to yourself in the end. The sun has set and I’m preparing to go down from the hill. In this momentary calm, I recollect my thoughts; put them in order amidst the chaos of these nightmares.

I feel really bad, but it could have been a lot worse. I didn’t meet my goals, but it sure as hell was a great season. I seem to forget that only a year ago, I was struggling to recover from a broken arm. I did break 15 seconds, even if it was only hand-timed, and had an almost forgettable string of low-15 second races. In the UAAP, I clocked a measly 15.52s in the heats and 15.75s in the final. I could have done much better, but the start, the sprint-in-between and the clearing simply didn’t have its usual spring. It could have been psychological; my collapse – my being outclassed – baffles me.

February 7 (and the 10th as well) simply wasn’t my day.

After the relay, which was the last event of the four-day meet, I took my time going back to the bleachers. Ashamed of my performance, I didn’t want to face my teammates. While I was sulking at one of the benches – “wallowing in self-pity” is a more creative and apt term – Orlando Soriano came to me to give his jersey. For a moment, I forgot the negative things and realized that sport did go beyond winning medals and scoring points. For all of track & field’s simplicity – those who throw and leap the farthest, those who run the fastest, wins – it really goes beyond beating the “7 nameless and faceless guys standing in my way.”**

One of the most relevant sports-related quotes out there are the ones by Martina Navratilova, the many-time Wimbledon champion; and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Navratilova’s words are truthfully blunt: “Whoever said ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts’ probably lost.” For Baron de Coubertin, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”* At first glance, the two seem to lie on opposite poles, with the former viewing winning and losing from a black & white lens, and the latter, being more universal and philosophical.

If you made me chose between the two quotes a year ago, I would have chosen Navratilova’s. Now that I’ve been bitten by defeat’s rabid fangs, her words seem like virulent, bestial jaws devouring my skin – reminding me of the simple truth, that oh so painful of facts, that I’ve lost.

Through the excruciating pangs of failure, I had an epiphany – that these two quotes are not paradoxical. Each one complements the other; the latter builds upon the former: Indeed, sport is about winning; there can only be one winner, one gold medalist – one champion. But sport goes beyond winning and losing. Sport is beyond making a string of excuses that debunks sport’s very essence. Sport is about making goals and meeting them. Sport is facing adversity head on. Sport is about commitment, a wholehearted devotion to something that you love doing.

Sport is about winning yet it goes beyond winning.

In the end, I threw away all those notions of shame and negativity. I mustered enough courage to speak in front of the team – that fine collection of young men who had stood together, fought together, suffered and laughed together – to thank them for a lifetime’s worth of memories.

* – The Olympic creed actually came from a sermon by an American Bishop, Ethelbert Talbot, according to this BBC feature.

** – Quoted from Michael Johnson

*** – For a year after UAAP 70, I was unable to look at these video clips. It was pure agony at that time.

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