Becoming inured to losing-A A +A
Sunday, August 12, 2012
ON page 8 of yesterday’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer is a photo of a British athlete congratulating his Filipino counterpart after their heat in the 5,000-meter run in the London Olympics. The accompanying caption said that the British finished third, the Filipino dead last.
I can’t think of any other reason why a winner should be congratulating the tail-ender at the end of a contest other than to patronize him but our athlete, Rene Herrera, seems to be enjoying the show. He is grinning widely as he receives Mo Farah’s handshake, raising his left arm and showing his thumb up. If you don’t know any better, you’d think that he had just won the biggest race of his life.
I do not mean to nitpick but I have to point out the oddity because it encapsulates everything that is wrong about Philippine sports. We have become so inured to losing there is no more shame in our being beaten badly and regularly in the international sports arena.
I know, I know. Sportsmanship is supposedly not about whether you win or lose but how you play the game but for Juan’s sake, must that be the Filipino athlete’s mantra? Shame on us who believe that even if we go home empty-handed from international sports competitions, we are still winners because we played our best!
Our athletes should have stayed home. There’s no sense, no rhyme nor reason, in continuing to send them to competitions like the Olympics when we know even before the games begin that we’d end up eating the dust of the competition. We have already succeeded in embarrassing ourselves more than often enough. Our reputation as the sick man of Asia is secure.
Okay, make that one of the sick men, along with the Laotians, the Cambodians, the Burmese and the Vietnamese. We’re in outstanding company. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and even tiny Brunei are not. Each them won at least a medal in London.
Notice that these are the countries that we play against in the Southeast Asian Games. And while they’re nowhere near the top in the medal standings (they’re in the bottom, actually), they have at least something to show for the nearly one-half month that they stayed in London.
Indonesia has a silver and a bronze, both earned in weightlifting. Malaysia also has the same tally: a silver in badminton and a bronze in diving.
Singapore earned two bronze medals in table tennis; Thailand, a silver in weightlifting and a bronze in taekwondo and, the greatest insult (on us) of all, Brunei, a bronze in track and field.
As for the Philippines, the Inquirer’s headline said it all: Party’s over for Pinoy Olympians in London. One by one, all the eleven of them fell by the wayside, none going past the first round except for boxer Mark Barriga.
But the sorriest story is that of Herrera, who, along with three other teammates, were in the Olympics only because of a rule that accommodates countries that do not have qualified athletes to field two entries each in athletics and swimming. Herrera is a steeplechaser but was made to run in the 5,000 because that was the only slot available to him.
The London Organizing Committee, according to the Inquirer, smirked at Herrera, describing him in their guide as “a rare example of an unqualified athlete in a long distance event.” When Farah offered his condescending handshake, the insult from the hosts was complete.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 12, 2012.