MORALE among the ranks of athletes and coaches in the national track and field pool got a needed shot in the arm as they are now set to resume actual training in Baguio City after a long 18-month layoff, according to national coach Jojo Posadas.
“Masayang-masaya lahat ang athletes and coaches. Para ngang ang sentimiyento ay ‘Praise the Lord!” Posadas said of the mood among the national team members, who began trekking to the country’s summer capital over the weekend.
“We would like to thank Sir Philip Juico who made this all possible with the huge help of the Philippine Sports Commission,” said Posadas, who arrived in Baguio over the weekend together with most of the athletes and coaches.
The athletic bets were major contributors to the country’s successful overall campaign in the 2019 SEA Games with a harvest of 11 gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals, finishing third among eight teams that saw action at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas, Tarlac.
Since the pandemic struck the country in March last year that resulted in lockdowns, the country’s track and field athletes haven’t had actual workouts together, content on having online fitness and conditioning exercises under their respective coaches.
Athletics chief Philip Juico tried several times in the past to gain approval from the PSC and Inter-Agency Task Force for the resumption of training, only to be told that it was not possible due to the rise of infections caused by the Delta variant.
“This development is a huge emotional psychological lift for our athletes and coaches who have been worried if they would ever get the chance to train again,” said Posadas, the husband of former long jump queen Elma Muros-Posadas.
“Thanks to Dr. Juico, the setting up of the training camp is well-coordinated and going smoothly,” Posadas said, adding they will train at the Baguio Athletic Bowl near Burnham Park and will be quartered at the Time Garden Villas Subdivision.
Fitness and conditioning exercises will be done at the PSC gym inside the Teachers Camp, with food and nutrition to be provided by the government sports agency.
Posada said they were supposed to begin training last Monday but typhoon Maring scuttled their plans.
“All of our Southeast Asian Games medalists are now here and nine coaches, including myself, with two more coaches arriving,” Posadas said of the camp that will be supervised by PATAFA national training director Renato Unso.
Already at the camp are the seven local athletes who won gold medals in the SEA Games two years ago, among them decathlete Aries Toledo, hurdler Clinton Bautista, javelin thrower Melvin Calano, heptathlete Sarah Dequinan and marathon runner Christine Hallasgo.
Sprinters Anfernee Lopena and Eloiza Luzon, members of the 4×100-meter mixed relay squad that also won gold in the 30th SEA Games, are also at the camp, according to Posadas.
“There will be a total of 34 athletes and 11 coaches at the camp in all once everybody has arrived,” he said.
The veteran coach said their priority is to build up the fitness and muscles of the athletes since most of them were unable to work out properly for a long time.
The athletes will stay in Baguio for two months before winding up their camp with the delayed National Open, which will serve as the tryouts for the local athletes for the 31st Vietnam SEA Games next year.
“If we can train back in Manila after the Christmas holidays, I believe we can bring back all of our athletes to competitive shape before the SEA Games. Kaya natin magawan ng paraan ‘yan,” Posadas said, adding he is hoping the Philsports oval in Pasig City would finally be available for the athletes next year.