(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Sept 24. edition)
IF there’s one solid reason there is a need to revamp the whole leadership in the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association, their group’s conduct on the Maxime Rooney affair is it.
If what the future Olympian’s father said is true, then our swimming officials just turned down our best chance to win an Olympic gold for reasons know only to them.
Pasa has been in a political infighting for years and while I favor no faction in the Pasa vs. Asap fight, I believe it’s time for a change in the NSA and the Maxime Rooney affair shows sans changes, the sport will be in a continued spiral.
What’s the Maxime Rooney affair? Well, in a nutshell, the nephew of Paz Radaza tried knocking on Pasa’s doors three years ago to represent the country in international meets. A promising swimmer then, he already got the needed release papers from his associations to make the switch.
But like an unwanted friend in social media, Kennan Radaza Rooney’s e-mails were ignored and according to the cousin of Lapu-Lapu City councilor Harry Radaza, when they finally got a reply, his son Maxime Rooney was asked to stay 12 months in the Philippines to compete.
A requirement that borders on the incredulous and one that should lead to the early retirement of all PASA officials, Mark Joseph the president included.
Because 3 years later, Rooney’s conduct in the pool made fools of Pasa. Not only did he set the junior world record in the Fina World Junior championships in 1:47.10, his time was faster than that of SEAG gold medalist Joseph Schooling, the record holder in the SEAG meet.
And how did the Philippines fare in the SEA Games? Well, we didn’t have a gold medal, that’s for sure. Haven’t won a gold in swimming in the biennial meet since we won four in 2009--0-2-5 in 2011, 0-0-4 in 2013 and 0-2-11 in 2015.
Maxime Rooney could have ended those string of zeros but he didn’t because Pasa turned him down.
And right now, I’m beginning to suspect that PASA officials are hoping Maxime Rooney’s feat would be ignored in Philippine sports media, because they don’t want the people to know how they goofed this one badly.
Why did Pasa require a 12-month residency for Rooney? So he can have world-class training from world-class coaches in a country that has zero homegrown world class swimmers? It’s like asking the next Lionel Messi who wants to play for the Azkals to give up his spot in Barcelona so he can stay in the country for 12 months.
It doesn’t make sense.