Aussie, Filipino Olympians hold training for Maa kids

AN AUSTRALIAN Olympian gives hope to children in Maa, Davao City through a free running training program dubbed as "Running out of Poverty."

Tony Benson, a 1972 Olympian and former World No. 5 in men's 5,000 meters, said: "The program is simple. We simply go to an elementary school and scout for potential athletes and indulge them to running or local games that they would enjoy since we don’t train them hard until they reach 13 or 14 years old. We just let them play those games and watch the result in local competitions."

He was joined by Filipino Olympian Hector Begeo and Triathlon Association of the Philippines (Trap) board member and representative for Mindanao Eustaquio "Stax" Savellano in Thursday's Davao Sportswriters Association (DSA) Forum at The Annex of SM City Davao.

Benson, who came to Davao City on his own expense, added that when the kids reached the right age, they will continue to encourage them to keep training in High School.

"And if they keep training in High School and work hard to get a scholarship, then the university will pay for their studies because they can run well. When they graduate, that's the simple goal of Running out of Poverty," said Benson, who coached Lydia de Vega, Isidro del Prado and Begeo during the glory days of the prestigious Gintong Alay under the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Benson chose Davao City to be one of the recipients. He started his advocacy with his wife who succumbed to breast cancer.

"My wife has a slogan `Dream extreme, train as a team'," Benson said, underscoring the importance of support from the coach, parents and the community.

Benson decided to visit Davao City having been prodded by his former student Peter Mcormak who is also a runner in Australia and is residing in Davao.

He started his training last Tuesday with Adella Snyder helping him select Barangay Langub and Maa Central Elementary School.

Savellano, for his part, said he is willing to support the advocacy of Benson, saying: "We would want to grab the opportunity to learn something coming from a high caliber coach."

Savellano, who helped Benson donate shoes for selected athletes, shared that Benson is a level five track and field coach and a level three triathlon coach.

Begeo, meanwhile, shared his experiences which would help encourage athletes to become successful through their sports.

"Nandito ako para mag-advise sa kanila, papaano rin maging Olympian at papaano makuha yung goal mo. Kailangan mo lang talagang makinig sa coach para magtagumpay ka," said Begeo, who was once a shoeless student who became a successful businessman in Australia,.

Begeo, who formed part of the second batch of Gintong Alay in 1981, recalled that when he was same at the age of these athletes, he had to run seven kilometers to go to school and another seven kilometers in going home due to poverty.

Training session is set at 9 a.m. Friday, March 31, at Maa Central Elementary School and in Barangay Langub on Saturday, April 1.


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