Injuries, crammed schedules hurt athletics team at 2017 SEA Games - PATAFA
MANILA, Philippines – The 2017 SEA Games athletics team of the Philippines reeled in a large portion of the country's medal haul, but SEA Games Athletics chief Philip Guijo believes that they could have fared even better if not for the setbacks the team experienced in their campaign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Despite bagging a total of 5 gold, 3 silver and 10 bronze medals, Guijo mentioned that the tight schedule of events and injuries incurred had taken a toll on the athletes and prevented some from delivering peak performances.
According to the press release of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), Guijo said that Eric Cray's schedule was "sandwiched," which was caused by the SEA Games organizing committee's "excessive emphasis on winning."
"There was too much emphasis on winning, excessive emphasis on winning to the point of rearranging schedules that would be detrimental to the health of athletes, specifically Eric Cray," elaborated Guijo. "They were always trying to arrange things where they will be at an advantage."
Eric Cray was able to defend his title as the 400m hurdles king, as he timed 50.03s to replicate his gold medal finish from the 2015 SEA Games. On the same day, however, he lost his title of being the "fastest man in Asia," as he finished second to Malaysia's Khairul Hafiz Jantan in the 100m dash.
Guijo explained that the cramped schedule of Cray's events on Tuesday, August 22, affected his final performance.
"You have an athlete who was made to run 100m in the heats in the morning, then after several minutes, he would run 400m in the preliminaries, then in the afternoon he’ll be told to run 400m hurdles then after an hour and 20 minutes in the finals of the 100m," explained Guijo regarding Cray's schedule.
Before the SEA Games commenced, Guijo wrote a letter to the organizing committee in Malaysia in order to appeal for a change of order of events. The request was ultimately dismissed.
"I wrote [to] them that our primordial interest here is the health and safety of our athletes, so that they can give their best for the benefit of the sport and the benefit of the spectators."
During his speech in the #teamPHathletics victory party on Wednesday, August 30, Guijo called out to the UAAP and NCAA to set a limit for each athlete with regards to the number of events that they will be competing in.
The race for the general championships of the leagues lead the schools to maximize the usage of their athletes, especially those who have a high chances of landing podium finishes. This can be disadvantageous to the long term health of the athletes.
Guijo notes that there are only a few athletes who compete in the track and field tournaments of each team, yet there are 23 events each for men and women in the UAAP and NCAA, as they follow the international track and field standards.
"These few athletes will be around 10, 12 or 15, [and they] end up competing in so many events, so they’re all worn out. The best ones, by the season ends, wala na injury-prone na."
"There is somebody sa decathlon, that’s 10 events, [then he] will be asked to compete in 3 or 4 more, eh di 14," recalls Guijo.
Guijo also suggested that there should be a close coordination between the coaches, athletes and medical personnel to prevent situations of injury.
A major setback of the Phlippine Athletics in this 2017 edition of the SEA Games was the inability of pole vault star EJ Obiena and former De La Salle University green trackster Patrick Unso to join the compete due to injuries.
Obiena, who was expected to earn a gold medal in the pole vault event, injured his left knee in training on the day before he was supposed to fly to Kuala Lumpur. Unso, on the other hand, opted out of the biennial meet due to his recurring hamstring injury. Unso was set to compete in the 110m hurdles and the 4x100m relay.
With the combined support of the government and PATAFA's major sponsor, Ayala, Guijo promised a "cutting edge" program that is motivated by the idea of creating the best training environment. This will prepare the athletes for the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and 2019 SEA Games that will be hosted in the Philippines.
"It’s like in school, you have to create the learning environment. How? Ayusin niyo yung classroom, ayusin niyo yung blackboard, ayusin niyo yung mga hallways, make the spirit of inquiry alive in the school, then in here [athletics], make the spirit of competition and excellence alive," said Guijo.
The athletes who cultivated medals in the 2017 SEA Games would be given extra training in order for them to meet the qualifying standards of the 2018 Asian Games. The qualifiers would then advance to a more rigorous program prior to the games.
Looking ahead to the 2019 SEA Games, Guijo said that the PATAFA and the team will not succumb to any pressure of earning the top spot in the athletics tournament.
"It’s not the pressure, but we would always want to improve, go several levels higher and we want to do better than in the past. That’s all. Since we spend so much time and effort in this team, panindigan na natin. Since you spend time and effort here, might as well do your best," said Guijo. – Rappler.com