The plight of Cebuana trackster Mary Joy Tabal is a “she said, they said” predicament that may befall any athlete who runs afoul with the powers that be in national sports associations (NSA) that have yet to elevate the country to Olympics glory.
Did she quit or resign from the national team ahead of the Southeast Asian Games or was she dropped for failing to comply with the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association’s (Patafa) rules?
Either way, her exclusion from the national team doesn’t reflect well on the national sports leadership whose tenure had not improved the country’s overall profile in international competitions.
Still from an objective viewpoint, one is uncertain as to who is telling the truth, though public sympathy and Cebuano pride is siding on Tabal at this point if one were to believe Patafa President Philip Juico’s claim that they have recordings that prove Tabal wanted to quit the national team after last year’s Olympics.
The grounds for letting her go appear to be quite flimsy — Patafa wanted her to train in Manila with coaches provided for her, but Tabal is insistent on having her own coach and training in Cebu.
We wonder if Patafa’s insistence is meant for their benefit since spending in Manila would likely justify the funding they ask from the national government. If other athletes train abroad with allowances — as the Tabal camp claims — why not extend the same leeway to her?
Then again, the NSAs are not exactly performing up to par even with an aging, entrenched leadership that fail to deliver the goods and the sporting glory the country’s fans have long been wanting.
The Tabal incident raises an interesting point in relation to Juico, who was a former chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) when he threw his support and the agency’s considerable financial resources behind Filipino-American David Buenavacz.
Buenavacz, a decathlete then based in the US in the ’90s, asked for financial support from the PSC in exchange for representing the country in international sports competitions.
Even with the financial support, Buenavacz failed to impress in the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games where his only remarkable performance came when he broke the Philippine record in the javelin throw.
While Buenavacz left the sports scene not long after to become a businessman, athletes like Tabal had to rely on corporate sponsors to support their bids for Olympic glory.
Unlike Buenavacz, Tabal looks to be committed to her sport in the long haul, and it won’t do any good for Patafa not to let her train the way she and her handlers see fit if it means producing medals and furthering her career as well as bringing glory and attention to the Philippines.
She can continue on her journey to sports greatness if Patafa will allow her to do so, and with the backing of Cebu’s officials, Tabal may be able to.
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