“I need the money…I need to buy vitamins”

“Yes, I’m a candidate for ejection from the Philippine team,” said the four-time champion Martes, the youngest Milo winner at 21 years old in 1999. “I’ll just talk to them and explain. I need the money. I’m having laser therapy for my old injuries and I need to buy vitamins.” (Note: Copied from news report at www.inquirer.net)

These were the exact words from the mouth of Christabel Martes, Lady Champion of the 33rd MILO Marathon FINALS held last Sunday, for her reason why she ran and finished the race despite an strict memorandum from PATAFA (Philippine Amateur Track & Field Assosiation) that National Pool Athletes are restricted from running more than a distance of 10K competitive Road Races at least 3 months before an International Games/Competition Meet. The reason for this memo is to make sure that our National Athletes do not divert themselves to their training program in order for them to “peak” during the competition period/date and at the same time, prevent them from becoming injured.

In the reaction of the PATAFA officials, as published in the news, Martes will be definitely removed from the list of National Athletes slated to be included in this coming Southeast Asian Games which will be held on the first week of December 2009 in Laos. For winning a cash prize of Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (P 75,000)  or equivalent to $ 1,595.00 in the MILO Marathon FINALS, her chance of winning the Gold Medal in Marathon in the ASEAN Games is gone!

 Money versus Pride For the Country? Present Reality of our Athletes versus Present Situation of our Sports Excellence Program?

Now, let us try to discuss the present condition of our National Athletes basing from the title of this post/comments from Christabel Martes.

It appears that our National Athletes are not properly or adequately supported by our Sports Federation or the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). As per PSC’s guidance, for an Athlete who won Medal/s (Gold, Silver, or Bronze) in the previous ASEAN Games and other International Competition Events and presently training to compete in an International Games, he/she receives a monthly support of   Fifteen Thousand Pesos (P 15,000)  or $ 320.00 inclusive of food, vitamins, training needs, and stipend. While on training, with the guidance of their coach, they are left on their own and stay/live in Sports Facilities being managed by PSC. It is also concluded that the athletes had to deal with their own injuries and have to get the services of professionals to cure them for a considerable fee. Which means that our Sports Support Services (Sports Medicine, Nutrition, Sports Psychology, etc) are lacking! In short, 15K Pesos is nothing if we want our athletes to be “world-class”. The same amount of money is equivalent to a ONE-DAY MEAL for Michael Phelps, I guess!

For a potential medal placer and a “newbie” in the National Pool of Athletes, he/she receives a monthly stipend of Six Thousand Pesos (P 6,000) or $ 128.00. This is translated to P 200.00 per day meal for the athlete and he/she could not even buy vitamins and sports drinks for his hydration & electrolyte resplenishment needs during his training. And if he/she wants to compete in weekend road races, he/she is selective as to where he/she will compete because the registration fee will be deducted from this amount of money. But our athletes are “brave warriors” because they have to risk in investing their training money to weekend road races that have Cash as Major Prizes for the Top Finishers! If they loss and don’t get any cash prize, the more that they will train harder but their training money is now draining and they are forced to spend their money to their barest needs. In essence, our athletes are on “survival” mode!

This situation is not only applicable to our runners but to all our athletes in other sports!

Now, you know already why our runners in our National Pool of Athletes are only good for our local Road Races with Cash Prizes, not for the ASEAN Games, not for the ASIAN Games, and never for the OLYMPIC Games!