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In redefining SEA Games, Bachmann stresses need for balance

Vanessa Sarno, 19, led the charge of weightlifting teenagers in the recent SEA Games. —PHOTO BY TEAM PHILIPPINES

Vanessa Sarno, 19, led the charge of weightlifting teenagers in the recent SEA Games. —PHOTO BY TEAM PHILIPPINES

If there’s one thing that Richard Bachmann learned while making the rounds in his first international multievent competition as chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, it’s the need to redefine the purpose of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Finding a balance, he calls it.

For so long an event where the goal has always been an increased gold medal haul, the SEA Games—if Bachmann has his way—must also become a showcase for rising stars to crack the first level of international competitions.

“Right now I feel we’re putting athletes who are supposed to focus on the Asian Games and the Olympics at the SEA Games for medals sake,’’ Bachmann said. “How about the other athletes, their growth? We have to find a balance.’’

“When I was [at the SEA Games in Cambodia], it was a learning experience for me. It’s becoming like you’re after medals or you’re after improving grassroots and finding the next generation of athletes,’’ he added.

Two sports that caught Bachmann’s attention during the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia were weightlifting and gymnastics, which were hamstrung by external factors but struck a balance that allowed them to shine.

Young lifters

For weightlifting, the absence of Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo was a downer. But that allowed the sport’s youngsters to grab the spotlight. The team went home with two golds, four silvers and a bronze.

Elreen Ann Ando led the squad as she took the gold in the women’s 59-kilogram (kg) class in record fashion. More notably, the team had teenagers shining: women’s 71kg gold medalist Vanessa Sarno and silver medalists Angeline Colonia (women’s 45kg), Lovely Inan (49kg) and Rosalinda Faustino (55kg).

Gymnastics was held down by a rule issued by organizers limiting the number of events world champion Carlos Yulo could participate in. Yulo managed just two golds as a result, but teammates John Ivan Cruz and Juancho Miguel Besana shone with their own victories.

“What’s nice about it was when Carlos was limited to two apparatuses, the other two (Cruz and Besana) performed,’’ said Bachmann. “It was a blessing in disguise and that can happen to all NSAs (national sports associations).’’

“We just can’t keep [sending] Yulo or (pole vaulter) EJ (Obiena) … back (to the SEA Games),’’ he added. “Who are next in line? We must have a plan for that. The Southeast Asian Games is really for up-and-coming athletes. Let’s put our heads together and find that balance.’’



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