Last Thursday, I had the privilege to be invited as guest in the weekly sports forum of the Tabloid Organization of Philippine Sports (TOPS).
I was with my former swimming coach and fellow Olympian Carlos “Pinky” Brosas and Southeast Asian Games chief of mission Monsour del Rosario, who used to be my teammate in the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
It was a very lively interview, especially with the quips of Cong. Monsour, which may be truly funny but made a lot of sense. After two hours listening to his comments, I knew that he is the perfect person to serve as chief of mission of the SEA Games.
On the other hand, coach Pinky noted that we haven’t won a single gold medal since the 2009 SEA Games so he shared his views on what swimming needs to do to improve its standing in preparation for the opening of the SEA Games on 30 November.
Coach Pinky shared his observation that most swimming coaches today focus on the short sprint races, which are the 50 and 100-meter events. He added that this practice has caused a downward performance of our swimmers since they do not train as much for a one-lap race.
He said we need to focus on longer distance and endurance training to raise the level of our swimmers’ performance. He added that the young swimmers today have to compete in longer distance events rather than sprints.
But he reminded that training for long-distance events means more per work day and more sessions per week.
It got me thinking about how much mileage we were doing on a daily basis for my events, which were middle distance like the 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter butterfly.
And if I were a long-distance swimmer, I would need to be training more.
Looking back, coach Pinky would make us do about an average of 15 kilometers a day, sometimes even more than that, for middle-distance swimmers.
Counting the number of days per week that we would be training which was six days on average, that would run up to about 313 days in any given year.
Multiply that to my 15-year swimming career and it appears that I swam about 70,425 kilometers in total.
Considering that the circumference of the world is only 40,070 kilometers, it means that I swam one and three quarters of the way around the world. Wow!
If we compare the distance that I covered in my career against what coach Pinky shared with our swimmers today, I won’t be surprised with how poor our performance emerged in the last decade.
Cong. Monsour shared the same sentiment when he said that when he was training for the Olympics, they started preparations years in advance and was training seven hours a day as well.
He added that in college, he would only take nine units per semester just to ensure that he would have enough time for training.
It seems that it is the commonality among successful athletes. It takes dedication and commitment to train and become successful in your chosen sport. There are no shortcuts to success.
We also shared with TOPS members that we have already opened the period of registration for Philippine Swimming, Inc. under the leadership of Ral Rosario. The registration for this year will be free in support for the call for unity for the SEA Games.
We wanted all stakeholders to be included in the plans and programs leading up to the formation of the national team that will represent us in major international tournaments.
Registration will be easy and straightforward and will be done online in our website philippineswimminginc.com.
Coach Pinky and I also added that we will be coming up with the calendar of events for 2019 with the focus of getting the best swimmers possible for the SEA Games and will be welcoming all Filipino-foreign swimmers to try out as well.
Cong. Monsour applauded our efforts and even reiterated our call for unity for the SEA Games.
He said we should be praised for stating that we are not doing this for any inkling for power, but only to share what we had successfully done for the past three decades. We also sacrifice our time and made sure that all stakeholders would be able to participate to make sure that only the best of the best in Philippine swimming would be selected.
We humbly admitted to the TOPS members that we are not miracle workers and that 11 months may not be enough. But we promised that we will start preparations as soon as possible and we will not waste any time for the local swimming scene to progress.
We were also very touched when Cong. Monsour shared to the members that when we were teammates in the Seoul Olympics, coach Pinky was already there and that we both knew how to win gold medals for the country.
And with that, he is very positive that we can bring back the glory days of swimming.
To return the favor, coach Pinky and I promised him that we will be there working hand in hand with him as chief of mission to ensure the country’s successful hosting of the Games.
There was really this common respect and praise for the achievements of one another in that forum. Our Olympic brotherhood and sincere love for the country were very obvious.
And I think that’s the mark of true sportsmen.