The 460-strong contingent to the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore was accorded a fitting send-off, Wednesday, May 27, at the PhilSports Multipurpose Arena, Pasig City.
In an interview, Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Ricardo Garcia expressed that they are not making any projections on the medal count this time. “Kasi dati medyo we were pinned down on the projection,” he reasoned out. Garcia believes that what is important is for the athletes to do their best, and the medals will follow. He assured, “Our athletes prepared hard; pinaghandaan nila itong Southeast Asian Games. And I am sure na because of this preparation, we will not be disappointed.”
The sports official added that they are also not predicting any ranking for the Philippines for the Games. He cited, “[It is] because of what is happening in Singapore na marami silang tinanggal na mga sports na medyo malakas tayo.” Garcia mentioned events in some weight classes in wushu (sanda) and taekwondo (gyeorugi), and in billiards. However, these disciplines are still projected to be the delegation’s stronghold along with boxing and athletics.
Garcia still has high hopes for a good showing from the delegates and specifically talked about how they improved on the athletes’ training. “We reviewed the past Games; nakita namin na yung mga atleta natin ay kinakapos. Parang lamang na lamang na tayo sa first round (sa mga martial arts natin), pagdating sa third round, humihina,” he recalled. To counter this, training is now focused a lot on strength and conditioning, and nutrition.
The PSC chair also shared that they are currently working with the Congress on amending the Incentive Act, where cash incentives for the medallists are stated. Currently the gold medal winners receive Php 100,000; silver medallists get Php 50,000; and bronze, Php20,000. The commission wants to double this incentive to about Php 200,000 for the SEA Games champions.
Aside from that, athletes must look forward to increase in their allowance. Garcia bared, “Pag nanalo ka ng gold medal, ang allowance mo will now be Php 40,000 a month. So that is Php 480,000 a year, for two years. So, magiging almost isang milyon yun.” Aside from these government bonuses, incentives from private groups such as team sponsors are also usually given.
Garcia, however, said that the athletes must not feel pressured to win a medal, especially if we look at the scheme as an incentive to perform well. He ended, “I always tell the athletes, ‘You go there, you enjoy and compete. Make friends!’”