Happy just to be there

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We, Filipinos, will never be big winners in sports! (Sigh!)

Here is why. Try to visualize a complete picture out of this one.

An athlete, two actually in this case, goes to the prime sports tournament in Southeast Asia, their trip is financed by the money of his country’s taxpayers, competes in a discipline where multiple gold medals are at stake, performs and obtains a result of zero out of a possible ten points while representing his country, finished last out of an 8-man field, and goes out in the vast world of cyber space to tell every eye reading and ear listening that he has been proud of representing his country because he got the privilege to represent his country over other aspirants.

Something wrong with this picture, isn’t it?

This is the case of Philippine Team divers John David Pahoyo, the more vocal one, and his teammate, John Elmerson Fabriga, in the latest staging of the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

Let me set the record straight on this one before I will be accused of being irrational, insensitive, judgmental or unsupportive. I admire them and am proud to be their compatriot for their personal reaction on this humongous debacle, probably the biggest in their careers (I don’t know what can top zero out of ten).

Sports are meant to be played against an opponent. Because there will always be winners, so do losers. It is the losing that does the damage. I have seen losers that succumbed to the sting of these defeats. Their lives outside sports become ruined because they emphasized too much thought and emotion for being defeated in sports. There are bigger things other than sports, no matter which stage it is played. Be it in a Barangay tournament or the Olympics should not matter. Sports is supposed to be just a game to be played after all.

Many, myself included, approved their reaction after the mess. These two exhibited admirable behavior in reaction to their embarrassing performances. Their performance should not diminish them as a person and it looks like they think it didn’t. Pahoyo reacted laughing at himself in a post on the posted video of their performances. They were still upbeat despite the disastrous result. There should be no shame in not winning in sports and I am all in for that.

That being said, they should, however, be ashamed in some other things in view of there performances’ results. Losing is not the offense here. Giving all your best is not the offense.

Being entrusted the privilege of representing your country and not training properly and not at their best shape using the taxpayers’ money is the offense here to be ashamed of.

Being proud of representing your country in an international arena with only four days of preparation is.

Depriving others who maybe in a better position to represent your country is.

Cheating the audience, who devoted time and resources to go to the venue or be glued in their TV sets is.

Having no respect to competition is.

I wonder if these two can look straight in the eye of every other Philippine athlete in the SEAG who did dished out their best and got gold medals only to find out that we still finished sixth overall because other disciplines, including theirs, failed to do their part.

In an interview with TV5 Sports, Pahoyo said they gave all their best. Although I intend to give them the benefit of the doubt, it is too hard to comprehend a score of zero out of a possible ten being synonymous to “giving it all their best”. These are supposed to be MVP athletes, the best of the best in our country. To get zero of ten is simply unacceptable in this stage.

He was quoted writing this: “we just practiced this synchro dives for just 4 days, even though we failed to win, but at least we did overcame what we once knew was out limit, and that makes us a champion”. Overcoming ones limits in international competitions doesn’t always make somebody a champion. Especially if preparation is only done in four days! Again, that’s not giving all one’s best.

He also said was taken aback by pressure. “Naunahan ng kaba.” he said. Back to the point of cream of the crop athletes here. His youth, he’s only 17 in fact, should not be an excuse because he knows what to expect in this kind of competition; no surprises here. He should not have been selected or had given up his slot to others if he cannot handle the pressures that these games present.

Fabriga was the first to botch his fourth dive by landing on his back to get the first zero. Lo and behold, Pahoyo duplicates the same score in his dive by hitting the water feet first.  Again, it is hard to fathom that this is equal to “giving it all your best.” I wish Pahoyo went all out to score a perfect 10 and be caught on camera consoling his friend Fabriga after his dive.

Most of all, here are the ones that made me felt sick. He thanked some people “to make this experience possible”, “But at least it was a nice experience.” and “I am still proud because not all of us has the privilege to represent our own country to such a big sporting event like this.”

That’s a load of nonsense. It was a good trip for them personally but not for the Filipinos. This is not a nice experience to be proud of. We were not properly represented here and it might have been better if the privilege was given to somebody else or we have not fielded any representatives at all.

If showing how to become good losers and how to be a good friend were their objectives in participating, then they have done a good job. But I don’t think that’s what made them flew to Singapore. They went there to win. Period. That is why the result is something that one should not be proud of.

Let’s hope that these two will use this debacle as a challenge when they go into competition again because a lot of load is on their shoulders to put the Philippines over the top of the competition. We can never top the SEA games medal board tally if some sports disciplines act his way. Billiards, boxing, basketball, martial arts, softball, and other disciplines which did fine could not do it alone.

Being contented by “happy just to be there” should be unacceptable if we are to become big winners.

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