After some delays, national athletics federation chief Philip Juico announced Friday that locally based national track and field athletes will move into the New Clark City facilities for their bubble training by the first week of February.
“Yes, we have a training camp at the New Clark City in Capas town, Tarlac, where the 2019 Southeast Asian Games athletics competitions were held,” Juico said during the online press conference announcing the Fineguard National Half-Marathon Virtual Challenge.
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) spokesperson and marketing head Edward Kho said the athletes will be training at the NCC Athletic Stadium and will be quartered at a dormitory separate from the NCC Athletes Village, which remains a COVID-19 government quarantine facility.
“They (the national the athletes and coaches) were supposed to move in last January 19, but because of the many additional documentary requirements and additional costs due to the new COVID-19 variant, our national team will be going there by the first week of February,” PATAFA president Juico said.
Due to the stringent conditions imposed by authorities to stem the spread of the contagious and lethal novel coronavirus, the local track body scrapped its earlier plan of having a training camp inside the La Salle campus in Santa Rosa city, Laguna last November.
Juico was hoping that this would have served as the prelude to the National Open last month, which has been reset to March 26 to 28 also at the NCC Athletic Stadium, adding that bubble training participants will undergo 7 swab tests while they are there.
“We will have about 40 athletes and coaches to prepare for the next Southeast Asia Games and other international events,” the former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman said.
Through the assistance of the PSC, Juico said PATAFA has asked Brig. Gen. Adriano Perez, Armed Forces of the Philippines Special Services chief, to release 13 enlisted athletes to join their national teammates.
They include decathlete Aries Toledo and hurdler Clinton Kingsley Bautista, who both won gold medals in the 30th SEA Games.
Also on the list was SEA Games women’s marathon champion Christine Hallasgo, currently based in her home province of Bukidnon, who upset compatriot and defending champion Mary Joy Tabal in her remarkable debut in the regional meet two years ago.
The national coaches joining them are led by head coach Dario de Rosas, deputies Jojo Posadas, Emerson Obiena, Jeoffrey Chua, John Lozada, and national training director Renato Unso.
With the rest of the Southeast Asian track and field rivals, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, getting a training head start, Juico said that it was critical for the Pinoy campaigners to start actual workouts right away.
“Vietnam and Thailand practically never stopped (training) while Malaysia and Indonesia have also resumed,” he said while stressing that the national team build-up was likewise essential in the wake of the country's huge track and field success in the last SEA Games in 2019.
Filipino track and field campaigners were among the country’s major contributors as it regained the SEA Games overall crown with 11 gold, 8 silver and 8 bronze medals, good for third in the eight-nation event, for their best ever performance in the biennial meet.
“We don’t want to waste the money that we spent in that fine performance that we had in the last SEA Games. Our athletes will lose if they don’t use it,” Juico explained. “Despite the online athletic exercise, it is still different when you have an actual competition in a supervised training by your coaches.”
Given the more than year of inactivity of the athletes, he warned that “our athletes are getting demoralized in a sense that they are sitting around and probably waiting for what will happen. We have to let our people compete so they can retain their competitive edge.”
“You cannot be training and training and training and not competing. It’s like studying for an exam every day but the exam never comes around. They’re never tested,” Juico added.
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