Friday, August 03, 2012

Fair Play: Let's unite for Mark Barriga

(This is the draft of my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu on Aug. 4)
IF YOU have anything scheduled for 8:45 p.m. (PH time), drop it.

On Aug. 4, 19-year-old Mark Barriga, who shoulders the burden of 92 million Pinoys here and another 10 million spread all over the world, will take on Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov  in the round-of-16 of the men’s light flyweight division.

Just 19 and the pressure on Barriga to win the gold must be enormous.  He’s had that pressure ever since he made it to London and the pressure has doubled ever since the rest of the Philippine boxing team failed in the final qualifiers last summer.

The last time a Pinoy made the round-of-16 in Olympic boxing was eight years ago, but we all know what happened to Harry Tanamor and Romeo Brin in Athens, right?  They all lost their round-of-16 bouts.  

Brin’s stint in Athens was a result of interesting circumstances. He was already retired and was a member of the coaching staff but because of a lack of boxers in the higher divisions, he joined the light welterweight qualifiers and made it, and made it to the round-of-16, four years after exiting in the round-of-32.

Tanamor made it back to the games in Beijing and was one of the medal hopefuls according to Sports Illustrated, having won the silver medal a year before.  

And of course, we remember the disappointment when he lost in the first round, right?

That disappointment is a possibility, again, but that shouldn’t stop you from supporting our lone boxer by watching his match, which will be aired live on TV 5.

Folks who’ve been very critical of our Olympic effort should take a rest and just watch our players.  I remember shaking my head after reading a comment in article about Jessie Lacuna’s exit in the swimming competition someone posted that we should forget about sending swimmers and track stars to the games because we are not built for it.

Actually, I admire our swimmers and track athletes because these guys know what they’re into.  As an NOC, we are required to send swimmers and track stars and guys like the Lacunas know that they get to participate in the Olympics because of that rule.

Knowing that, and knowing that some of their countrymen would ridicule their performance, they show up every day for training.

Barriga, of course, is a class of his own and if this young man stops to think about the expectations of a country hungry for an Olympic gold, the pressure would have gotten to him.

Perhaps, that’s why he has secluded himself and even apologized for not granting any interviews because if he did, any reporter would be asking about his gold-medal chances.

And that’s something Barriga’s team shouldn’t be focusing because the only thing they should be thinking of is how to beat the other guy, who, for now happens to be Zhakypov.

And we should all be there for him.

AZKALS. It was two years ago this month when Dan Palami and the Azkals first stepped into Cebu for a training camp of sorts.

Back then, not too many folks knew them and even the hardcore of hardcore fans skipped out on their brief scrimmages at the SVD field in Mango.

“Two years ago I had a very big problem because my coach Des Bulpin just quit for a job in India because he didn’t like how he was treated by the PFF,” Dan told me during another visit to Cebu the other week.

Now, the Philippine team, whose only camp prior to the 2010 Suzuki Cup was in Tacloban, will have the first of a series of camps in the US and Dan and the national team management has to defend the necessity of these camps.

How quickly circumstances have changed for the national team.

Are these camps necessary?  I think they are, and asking if these are, is like asking, “Do Dan Palami and the national team management know what they are doing?”

I’m no expert but they got us to where we are now, so I guess, Dan and the rest of the management team know what they are doing.  And I guess, right now,
nobody's losing any hair with the way they conduct their preparations.


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