Training the next generation
There’s one thing that boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, Olympic gold winner Hidilyn Diaz and other medal achievers at the Tokyo Games have shown: Filipinos can be world-class athletes. Reaching the top, however, requires disciplined, strenuous and sustained training, preferably from an early age.
Pacquiao’s loss to reigning welterweight champion Yordenis Ugas of Cuba has hardly diminished his remarkable achievements in professional boxing. As Pacquiao ponders his political plans for 2022, suggestions have been revived for his retirement from the ring.
This should give urgency to the development of more boxing champions, and not just in the professional ring. The Philippines’ Mark Magsayo softened the blow of Pacquiao’s loss to Ugas by knocking out Mexican Julio Ceja in the title eliminator for the featherweight belt. The Filipino boxers in the Tokyo Games, who brought home silver and bronze medals, need full support as they train for Paris 2024.
Diaz is preparing for her next competition despite reports that the International Olympic Committee might drop weightlifting from the 2024 Paris Games amid doping and bribery scandals. She trained mostly in Malaysia for the Tokyo Games amid the COVID pandemic while grappling not only with a lack of support from the Philippine government, but also accusations that she was part of a cabal plotting the ouster of President Duterte.
Her gold medal has inspired many Filipinos, particularly young girls, to engage in weightlifting. The government together with the private sector must intensify efforts to encourage Filipino youths to engage in sports. Athletes that show promise must be given sufficient support in developing their skills.
Countries that have harvested piles of Olympic medals make significant investments in sports development, with programs starting at a young age, ensuring that the next generations can ably take over upon the retirement of their champions. Athletes need as much full support and incentives while in training as they do when they win honors for the country.