Foreign exposure the game changer

MANILA, Philippines — PSC chairman Butch Ramirez is convinced that foreign exposure in both competitions and training was the key to the Philippines’ historic medal showing at the recent Tokyo Olympics and said it was the difference maker in delivering a gold, two silvers and a bronze.

Ramirez said it couldn’t have happened without financial support. “Money, foreign exposure in competitions and training, coaches, support staff, unity with all partners, the talent of our athletes and their experience,” said Ramirez in detailing the factors that led to the four medal output, the country’s best performance in 22 Olympic appearances since 1924.

In preparing for the 2024 Paris Games, Ramirez said there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. “Let’s duplicate the same formula,” he said. “With 19 Tokyo Olympians and more than 100 elite athletes who fought to qualify for Tokyo. Then, we invest in 25 or more young athletes, maybe under 15 years old to target Paris and Los Angeles in 2028.”
Ramirez said he’s very proud of the 19 athletes who represented the country in Tokyo. All of them went through the grind in this pandemic to battle courageously. “Our 19 quality athletes competed against the best in the world and I watched them,” he said. “I was most gratified when we succeeded to bring four medals, including our first-ever gold. And the whole nation celebrated and was inspired by the achievement.”

Without a doubt, Ramirez said foreign exposure was a game changer. Gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, for instance, trained with Chinese coach Kaiwan Gao for over a year in Malaysia. Three boxing qualifiers were holed up in a camp in a remote Thai village for over three months with Australian coach Don Abnett while a fourth qualifier, Eumir Marcial, trained with Freddie Roach in Los Angeles then at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Pole vaulter EJ Obiena became the first Filipino to qualify for the event in the Olympics and made it to the final. Since winning gold in the 2019 SEA Games, Obiena was isolated in training in Italy with Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov and competed in the European circuit. Another Filipino athlete Caloy Yulo broke into the vault final, a first for the country in any gymnastic event, and at 21, is eyed to compete in at least two more Olympics with an upside to bag multiple medals. Yulo has lived in Tokyo the last four years training with Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya.

Ramirez said applying advanced technology in sports science is critical to improve the athletes’ performance. Throughout the Olympics, PSC chief of staff and Philippine Sports Institute National Training chairman Marc Velasco stayed with the athletes in Tokyo. Sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad and nutritionist Jeaneth Aro played a vital role in Diaz’ victory while sports psychologist Marcus Manalo headed the boxing delegation. “Cutting edge technology and sports science are extremely necessary with the heart and mind of the Filipino athletes,” said Ramirez. “The trend for the time to win Olympic medals is to provide five to six coaches per athlete. A united Philippine team will bring more honor and glory to our country.”

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