THE Philippines needs more Eric Buhain and Akiko Thomson to make a splash in the 30th Southeast Asian Games scheduled Nov. 30-Dec.11 in Manila and two other cities.
But to achieve such lofty goal with only about 10 months left in the calendar, the feuding local swimming groups should come together and gather the best available swimmers who will represent the country in the biennial competition to be held in the country for only the fourth time.
“The (SEA Games) clock is ticking. We have to come together and work together to bring the best for the country,” said Buhain during the fifth Tabloid Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) “Usapang Sports” at the National Press Club in Manila last Thursday.
Buhain, who made history by winning a record six swimming gold medals during the “Miracle of ’91” in the 16th SEA Games in November, 1991, said he believes there are enough talented young swimmers who can also bring honors to the country provided they are given the proper training and motivation.
“I see a lot of new faces, who can take our places. Madaming magagaling, madaming masigasig ngayon,” added Buhain, who appeared in the weekly forum together SEA Games chef de mission Monsour del Rossario and former national swimming coach Pinky Brosas.
“But we have to get our acts together now. And we will do it starting today by launching an online registration for interested swimmers and coaches all over the country regardless of affiliation to join our group,” said Buhain, who represented the country in the 1998 Seoul Olympics and 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
“From there, we will schedule a series of qualifying competitions under the best coaches to ensure that we will only field the best swimmers in the SEA Games,” added the 48-year-old Buhain, who also served as head of the PSC in 2001 and the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) in 2005.
Brosas, a multi-awarded coach, lamented the failure of top officials to launch a sound and comprehensive training program that can produce outstanding swimmers like Buhain, Thompson and Christine Jacobs.
He said the country can’t simply rely on looking for fresh talents abroad, but should also set its sights on talented local swimmers even from as far as Basilan and Sulu in Mindanao.
“In Basilan, there are young and tall swimmers who can be trained extensively by our swimming association,” explained Brosas, who served as coach of two-time Olympic swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi.
“As Eric and I said, all these swimmers – no matter how talented -- should also undergo qualifying rounds. Even the great American swimming champion Michael Phelps underwent qualifying.”