Tag Archives: Swimming

Call Me Maybe – 2012 USA Olympic Swimming Team

This is definitely the best cover of “Cally Me Maybe.”

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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)

Dara Torres: An Inspiration!

Dara Torres is a veteran of five Olympic Games, from the Seoul in 1988 all the way to Beijing in 2008. She had amassed a total of 12 Olympic medals, four of them gold. The then 41-year old Dara won three silver medals in Beijing. At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, the 45-year old placed fourth in the 50m freestyle finals, narrowly missing a ticket to her fifth straight Olympics.

Read: “Dara Torres (USA, Swimming Legend)”

Dara Torres at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Photo from Bryan Allison)

Aside from isolated episodes during my teenage years, I’ve always been a physically active person. Athletics took being just physically active to another level. In track & field, the most athletic person almost always wins. For the past decade, I’ve been breaking and building my body to be faster, stronger, and better.

Click here to read about Darya Klishina, my other source of inspiration!

Now that I’m retired from the hurdles, the time I spent doing exercise have declined. Instead of the usual five times a week, the training frequency had lessened to as low as three. This becomes problematic. I seem to get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t workout. I tend to imagine my tummy getting bigger, losing my washboard abs, and plyometric activity. These thoughts are nightmarish!

Athletes like Torres are an inspiration. To be able to compete at such a high level, despite the disadvantages of age, are truly remarkable.

Even if I’ve hung up my spikes, I would never ever give up the active lifestyle. Like Dara Torres, I’ll be pursuing ways to make my body perform better. Although I am still at a loss on what sport to pursue next, in light of my priorities in life, one thing is for certain: I’ll always be an athlete!

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)

The Champions of Tomorrow

The Philippine sporting scene is mostly patterned after the United States model. Athletes develop from the grassroots level to the collegiate ranks. Academic institutions play a major part in honing our sporting champions, unlike the club and sport school systems in Europe. Education takes precedence over sports, since a professional sporting career is a rarity outside the Four B’s: Basketball, Bowling, Billiards and Boxing.

The Leyte Sports Academy is a unique institution. It adheres to a special sports curriculum of the Department of Education. Established in 2010, it provides secondary school education to athletically-gifted students. A feature by Jessica Soho’s “Kapuso Mo” show provides a glimpse of the LSA’s novel approach to education and sports. Student-athletes wake up before dawn to train for their respective discplines: athletics, swimming and boxing.

My high school coach, Edward Sediego, handles the athletics program of LSA.

Read: “Leyte Sports Academy, a first of its kind”

The LSA shoulders the costs of the students’ food and sporting equipment needs, as well board & lodging. In fact, the living quarters of the student-athletes are perched right on top of the classrooms. The training facilities are sufficient by Philippine standards. An Olympic-sized swimming pool, a boxing gym and an athletics stadium are easily accesible. However, as shown by Soho’s feature, some of the most vital training equipment like boxing gloves are quite worn out.

The choice of sports is a noteworthy move. The Philippines has won nine Olympic medals since its first appearance at the 1924 Paris Games. All of these medals came from boxing (2 silvers, 3 bronzes), athletics (2 bronzes) and swimming (2 bronzes). Our country came tantalizingly close to winning its first Olympic Gold medal in 1964 and 1996, where Anthony Villanueva and Onyok Velasco lost closely-fought bouts, respectively. Athletics and swimming are medal-rich events, where Filipinos have achieved some measure of success, albeit in the distant past.

The Filipino sporting potential in those three sports are huge – the prospects for much-bigger international success is astounding, considering our young population of one hundred million.

This early, LSA students have reaped success in national level competitions like the Batang Pinoy Games and the Palarong Pambansa. John Smith struck silver at the Batang Pinoy boxing competition last year. Vivencio Cabias emulated Smith’s feat, as he cleared 3.11m in the pole vault, en route to silver medal at the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa.

The LSA, with its unique, scientific, and holistic approach to grassroots sports development has taken the concept of the Filipino student-athlete several leaps forward. This no-nonsense focus on honing one’s skills, while maintaing certain academic standards, is unparalleled. It gives the LSA students a definite competitive advantage  as they progress from the grassroots level to the collegiate, and ultimately the elite ranks.

The youth of today are the champions of tomorrow.

Stephanie Rice!

My favorite swimmer!

Video credits:

hybridbackstroker

SunriseOn7

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