Decorated Fil-Am skater cries foul over PhSU snub

By Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Sep 19 2013 07:30 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2013 03:30 AM

Filipino-American figure skater Melissa Bulanhagui

MANILA – Filipino-American figure skater Melissa Bulanhagui is disappointed with the Philippine Skating Union’s (PhSU) not to pick her to represent the Philippines in the Nebelhorn Trophy 2014, which serves as a trial for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The 23-year-old, who appeared on Wednesday’s episode of ANC's weekly sports program, Hardball, said the PhSU decided to send a junior champion to the competition in Germany, where she won bronze in 2010.

“I came here from Team USA to compete as a Filipino national, hoping to prove that I was the best in the country and I did that twice,” Bulanhagui said, referring to her title wins in the national level.

The Filipino-American competed for Team USA since she was 16, winning a bronze medal at the 2006 US Championships and a gold medal at the Junior Grand Prix event in Italy in 2009.

In 2010, she won the bronze at the 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy, which was her first international medal as a senior.

A year later, she made a bold move by leaving Team USA to represent the Philippines, where she performed well, winning in national competitions twice.

“I decided to leave [Team USA] to make the Olympic team for the Philippines. I asked them (Team USA) to release me since I was under contract with them,” said Bulanhagui.

She said that leaving Team USA meant getting cut off from financial support for her training expenses, which she expected from the PhSU.

Bulanhagui said she and her parents shouldered most of her expenses, including $2,000 for her training program, $2,000 for her skating equipment and some more for her travel and accommodations during international competitions.

“For now I'm not really getting anything,” she lamented. “I get to receive a little trophy and a medal but that's about it.”

The PhSU has cited the point system in international competition as their reason for fielding a junior skater to the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.

“Their reason is that she had scored more points than me internationally in two competitions. What they overlooked is that I competed at senior level. They overlooked my seniors score by 30 points,” she said.

In a statement, the PhSU said that the decision was arrived at by their executive board which consisted of the union’s management and technical committee.

The union has also cleared PhSU president Hans Sy’s involvement in choosing the country’s representative to the Nebelhorn Trophy.

“This decision was arrived at by the PhSU with [technical] basis which was conveyed to her last June 4, 2013,” the statement said.

“The PhSU Executive Board, consisting of the Management and Technical Committee assist the President [Sy] in the day-to-day operations of the Federation including monitoring progress and evaluating potentials of our Skater in National and International competition. Said decision emanated from this group as reiterated earlier.”

Bulanhagui said she didn’t expect to get a royal treatment for leaving a promising skating career in the US.

What she was asking was the union’s respect, she said.

“I was blessed with two citizenships, they gave me the opportunity to represent my roots so I took that opportunity. I thought they would respect the athletes and pick the best athletes to go, but it seems that they didn't,” said Bulanhagui.

“I have so much love for the sport but if they disrespect the athletes like this, if they can do it to me, the more they can do it to the kids who spent so much time and effort.”