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Who’s afraid of dragons?


The furor over the dragon boat federation is unlikely to die down until it secures enough viagra prices in mexico federation countries for the Olympics

MANILA, Philippines—We are not villains.

Peping Cojuangco has spoken.

“Why is it that in the media, this team won and we’re the villains? When were we villains? When were we villains here? That’s our question. When did any villains come in?”

In an interview with GMA-7’s Jessica Soho last week on GMA News TV, Cojuangco, president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), protested his casting as villain in the tempest surrounding the victory of a former national team at the International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships (IDBF).

Paddlers of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation

Paddlers of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (Photo by Geloy Concepcion)

“If I really wanted to stand in their way, they never would have made it to Florida,” said Cojuangco, an uncle of President Aquino. “The law is very clear. No team can claim to represent the Philippines unless the POC recommends or endorses them. We never stood in their way.”

Cojuangco may have control over the future of national teams, but he has no power to stop a private club from competing internationally. Although no team can be called a national team without the endorsement of the POC, the paddlers of the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) have made it clear they are not Team Philippines.

Before the team of 16 headed to the Tampa Bay World Championships this month, coach Annabelle Tario told ANC’s Storyline that the team would compete as independents.

“I don’t have to say they’re all ready to fight. All of them have heart. I know how determined every one of them, every single one of them is. We all have the same goal, and we will stand by what we did, even if we’re not supported by the government.”

The PDBF, once a National Sports Association (NSA), was put under the management of the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation, a separate NSA. The original PDBF was dissolved, and all athletes were asked to join the canoe-kayak team with the promise they would retain their national team status if they cooperated.

Most of the athletes, many of whom depended on the allowances granted to national team athletes to support their families, chose to follow the POC directive. At least 12 of those who left were enlisted personnel of the military.

Cojuangco said they were sent a directive from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) demanding the change in dragon boat’s management. Later interviews have POC officials replacing the word “directive” with “recommendation.”

POC said that because IOC recognized canoe-kayak, not dragon boat, all countries with the exception of Singapore had followed the recommendation.

It means that instead of answering to the IDBF, the dragon boat governing body of which the Philippines is take cialis best results a founding member, all countries report to their national canoe-kayak federations, itself under the International Canoe Federation (ICF).

“There really is a regulation,” said POC chair Ricardo Garcia in the same TV interview. “Unless we follow the rules and regulations, no matter how good they are, they won’t be allowed to join.”

Paddle politics

Issues of dragon boat independence are not restricted to the Philippines.

Dragon boat federations worldwide are threatened with what they have dubbed as a takeover by the international canoe federation, or ICF, whose representative had repeatedly attempted to block IDBF’s membership from the GAISF, the IOC’s General Association of International Sports Federations, the body governing all non-Olympic sports. GAISF, now called SportsAccord, now recognizes the IDBF.

In the 1980s, when dragon boat was fast becoming a sport of interest to athletes outside China, several enthusiasts formally asked the ICF to help promote the sport.

The federation decided that dragon boating was too dissimilar to their sport and turned down the request. But the recent increase in dragon boat paddling enthusiasts appears to have changed ICF’s views.

It is yet to be confirmed if any penalties have been imposed on Singapore for its refusal to follow the IOC recommendation.

It is, however, untrue that only Singapore continues to recognize dragon boat as a national team independent of canoe-kayak.

The United Kingdom Sports Council, for example, which is the UK government’s administrative body for all sports-related activities, recognizes the British Dragon Boat Racing Association (BD). The BD is a federation under the IDBF, and is considered the national team and governing body for dragon boat racing.

In Canada, Sports Canada has given Dragonboat Canada, not CanoeKayak Canada, the right to field and select its national team.

The Australian Dragon Boat Federation, winner of 27 medals at the Sydney IDBF Championships, is formally recognized by the Australian Sports Commission and is thus considered a national team.

The same is true for many of the countries that competed in the recent Nation’s Cup in Tampa Bay. The IDBF-organized World Championships only allows IDBF-sanctioned teams.

“That’s only an option and we can choose,” said PDBF president Marcia Cristobal. “The Dragon Boat association of most countries remains separated from canoe-kayak discipline.”

This is not to say there is no basis for the POC’s insistence toward reframing dragon boat’s position in the national sports field.

Dragonboat USA, for example, is under the United States Association for Canoe-Kayak (USACK). Canoe-Kayak controls national team selection, although its board of directors also includes independent members from the American dragon boat federation.

Olympic sport

But why is dragon boat not considered a full-fledged sport in the Olympics?

The barrier is numbers.

The IOC requires international federations to have at least 75 National Federations under its roof. The IDBF currently has 69 active federations.

Although the probability of a dragon boat race at the next Olympics is low, IDBF hopes dragon boats will do more than carry Olympic torches in 2016.

Once recognized by the country’s Olympics committee, a national team could get sponsorships through the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). It is the same for the sports commissions of the UK, Canada and Australia, all of whom are independently sponsored irrelevant of their national team status. The USA’s IDBF team also has a roster of corporate sponsors.

The bylaws of a nationally recognized Philippine sports organization are very clear. It has the right “to select the athletes, trainers, coaches and other officials for its national teams,” and to “dedicate and commit its organization toward the development of the sport.” Already, coaches were dropped with this year’s “merging.” Training, according to the breakaway group, had deteriorated to the mediocre.

A question of skill

POC’s Jeff Tamayo, who has earned flak for his abrasive statements regarding the PDBF, has reluctantly apologized for calling the team too old to compete.

“They have the body, they have everything, but as we all know, ampaw na lang ‘yun (that’s hollow),” Tamayo said.

Although many arguments have been brought out by the POC to explain to an indignant public why the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation was stripped of its national team status, the question of the talent may be one of the more curious.

In October last year, the PDBF was asked to go through time trials to qualify for the Asian Games—a requirement rarely asked of medaling teams. At the time, the men’s team already held buy generic cialis 43 gold medals, while the women’s squad had 11.

“We want outright qualification, but they, the screening committee, said otherwise,” said technical director and coach Nestor Ilagan in 2010. “To settle the matter we agreed to hold a time trial and proved we deserved to be included.”

To qualify, members of the team were told to match the paddling time of bronze medal teams in the 200m, 500m, and 1000m races held during the 2008 Asian Dragon Boat Championships in Penang, Malaysia.

“Our aim is to win the gold in the Asian Games,” said Ilagan, “and if we feel that we are not capable of winning, then we will not push through with our trip to save money.”

It should not have been a surprise to the POC that the team beat the qualifying standards, as the teams that had set those same standards were teams the Philippines beat in Penang. It was Malaysia’s national team that won the bronze in 2008 for the 200m race at 44:74 seconds, the same standard the POC set for the Philippine team for the 200m trials, a race the Philippines won silver for with a time of 42:36. The same is true for the 500m races.

At the qualifying trials in La Mesa Dam on October 15, 2010, the men’s team not only qualified, they beat their own Asian record, finishing at 41:88.

The women’s team, bronze winners at the Penang games, beat their own 200m and 500m records.

When the teams beat even the bronze 1000m standard by more than a minute, POC called it cheating.

Unlike the 200m and 500m races, the organizers of the Penang Asian Games recorded the final speed records of the thousand-meter races as totals of a team’s heats, instead of as the paddling time of a single race.

PDBF Head Coach Noel Ilagan averaged the paddling times for the bronze medalists’ 1000m races in the Penang tournament, and submitted them to POC officials for approval as qualifying standards for the 1000-meter race.

POC signed off on the standards, and then blamed the dragon boat team for what they claimed was unethical behavior. The PDBF claimed no malice was involved, and offered to undergo retrial.

Although the question of whether the PDBF qualified on the 1000m could have been easily solved by applying a qualifying time acceptable to the POC, or by accepting the retrial offer of the team, the POC did neither.

The PDBF, they said, had unbelievable speed. It was not meant as a compliment. Tamayo released a report claiming the team had not only cheated but were probably “on steroids.”

Medical tests proved otherwise. The POC was left with a team whose conceded speed could only be attributed to skill.

But POC Commissioner Clarito Samson remained indignant. In a TV interview, he declared: “In this sport, you can win a gold medal by a fraction of a second. Even in long distances, you cannot beat your opponent here by half the course. This is the Asian Games! Nobody gets by on luck here.” He began laughing, and could not stop until he covered his mouth.

We are not canoers

Many of the members of the current national team under the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation (PCF), said Jake Aspiras, one of the PDBF team’s managers, had attempted to leave the PCF group, but did not have the financial means to sustain their independence.

Aspiras said she was present in a 2010 closed-door meeting with POC’s Monico Fuentevella, who told athletes that their best recourse is to shift their allegiance to canoe-paddling. Dragon boat, he said, would never get them Olympic gold medals.

It is a refrain repeated in many recent interviews, an odd note in an otherwise consistent story that brands PDBF members as recalcitrant athletes unable to show gratitude toward a government that has already spent more than P50 million in their training.

“They don’t want to paddle canoes because generic cialis online it is a different discipline,” said Aspiras of the canadian pharmacy online paddlers. “They’ve tried it; they don’t like it. We’re good at team sports. We’re unbeatable because we trust each other.”

Although the POC and PSC have committed to sending the PCF paddlers to the Southeast Asian Games, the PDBF has been asked to compete against the canoe-kayak dragon boat team—the former national athletes who chose not to break away from the merger.

The public challenge was issued by PSC chair Ricardo Garcia.

It has not yet been confirmed if the PDBF is willing to compete with its former teammates.

The furor is unlikely to die down until the IDBF secures enough federation countries for the Olympics.

In the meantime, the PDBF will continue striking the waters of Manila Bay, in the hope there will be cleaner waters.—Newsbreak

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