Look what Filipino athletes have to live up with to meet their commitments serving the country in the only means they now.
In the case of boxing qualifier Irish Magno, who since making it to next year’s Olympics last March, has been aching to train to fulfill her dream of gifting her beloved Philippines its first gold medal in the quadrennial conclave also known as the “Greatest Sports Show on Earth.”
And fellow fighter, world featherweight amateur champion Nesthy Petecio, who is trying to make up for her failure to qualify the first time she attempted, and some 80 of her peers swill hopeful of making it to Tokyo.
Since going back to her town of January in Iloilo due to the imposition of a nationwide lockdown in sports due to Covid 19, the 29-year-old Magno, a flyweight, has been preparing on her own online through then help of her town mates.
The worn out punching bag she’s using and the other training equipment, which the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) fails to provide her despite repeated requests, were lent to her by her neighbors.
Magno even posted in her instagram account a picture of herself buying equipment as gloves, mitts and other paraphernalia in a mall so she can avail of if only to carry out the training program prepare for her by her coaches, headed by Boy Velasco — chief trainer of the national women’s team.
“Na-qualify na ako, a first in the women’s division in boxing and I told myself, take advantage ko na kasi sabi nga nila historic na daw yun and, ergo, malaking honor na para sa sarili ko, sa sports ko, at sa bansa,” the well-built 5-foot-4 fighter told The Manila Times in a long distance call sometime last week.
“I can’t do anything na. I am already an Olympian na matagal ko nang pinangarap. Who knows, baka isa ako sa mga ini-expect na manalo ng Olympic medal lalo na ang gold na halos 100 taon na nating pangarap lahat ng Pilipino,” she exclaimed.
Petecio, rated no. 2 in her division in the world like teammate Eumir Marcial, on the other hand, had to rent an apartment for P4,000 a month in Digos City, Davao del Sur, some one and-a-half hour drive from Davao City in order to prepare.
The rent, she said, also represents the cost of electricity, water supply, etc. which she needs to undergo a decent build up for the next qualifying competition she plans to take part in.
“That’s besides the P2,000 membership fee to the boxing club to avail myself of the training facilities,” she said in another interview. “Medyo may kamahalan nga, but as we, members of the national pool have been saying, kailangang naming gawin,” she said in reference to teammates Carlo Paalam, Ian Bautista and Risa Pasuit, who like her, hope to earn tickets to the Games.
The duo confessed ABAP told them they will be flying to Manila as soon the Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19 permits them to. But they have to go back to their provinces for the holiday season.
“I don’t know why, maybe hindi nila kami puwedeng pakainin habang nandito kami sa Manila,” Petecio said.
“Sabi din nila wala namang problema na hindi kami nakakapag-ensayo face-to-face kasi may internet naman,” Magno butted in. “Problem is, halos araw-araw nawawala ang internet so bale wala rin nang ensayo.”
In the absence of financial support from ABAP, Petecio said she’s spending portion of her earnings and incentives from winning the world championship.
Both Magno and Petecio expressed envy to Olympic fellow qualifier middleweight Eumir Marcial, who, too, had the same predicaments as theirs but turned pro and succeeded in having Freddie Roach and training team help him pursue similar dream of competing in the Olympics.
Once in-a-while, the duo chorused, they think of approaching compatriot eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao for help.
“Baka matulungan din kami ni Boss Manny na ma-realize ang dream namin at ng ating mga kababayan na mahandugan ang ating bansa ng Olympic gold medal. That would be great for the Philippines,” Magno and Petecio told this writer.
Other Olympic hopefuls share Magno’s and Petecio’s sentiments, saying, like the duo, they, too, have been awaiting local sports authorities – the Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission, National Sports Association – to provide them with training programs.
“Gusto ng ating mga opisyal na katawanin tayo ng maraming athleta sa Olimpiyada, pero wala naman silang ginagawa,” an exasperated parent of an athlete lamented.
“July pa, sinabi nila mag-e-ensayo na ang ating atleta. Disyembre na at ilang buwan na lang qualifying tournament na, hindi pa rin nakakapag-handa anating atleta,” he bewailed.