My name is Raymond Fortun. I am a lawyer and a cyclist.
Like most Filipinos, there are two toys that we remember having when we were young – a basketball and a three-wheeled tricycle. It is, thus, surprising that our sports leaders have put more stress in the former than in the latter, despite the seeming disadvantage that the Philippines has against the Lebrons and the Doncics of the world.
I respectfully ask our national leaders and sports patrons to seriously consider road cycling as a possible source of Olympic gold in the 2024 Games, for the following reasons:
1. Cycling is in the hearts and minds of Filipinos
At an early age, I was enamored by the giants of Philippine cycling such as Cornelio Padilla Jr., Mawe Reynante, Domingo Quilban, Manolito Moring, Renato Dolosa, Romeo Bonzo and Carlo Guieb. Heck, I would bet that some siblings wanted to be like the Etrata brothers, Samson and Benjie.
Simply put, height is not a requirement in order to excel in cycling at the world stage.
Thousands of Filipinos lined the routes of the Marlboro Tour, waiting for hours just to catch a glimpse of their idol in yellow, green and polka dot. To this day, there is still a good following for Philippine cycling, which has developed good cyclists like Galedo, Morales, Oranza, Oconer and the Cariño brothers.
2. We have the height to excel in cycling
In the recent Olympic Games, the gold in road cycling was won by Richard Carapaz of Ecuador. He is 5 foot 7 inches. Caleb Ewan of Australia is arguably the top sprinter in the world tour, and he is only 5 foot 5 inches.
The gold medallist in the time trial was Primož Roglič of Slovenia, and he is only 5 foot 9 inches. Simply put, height is not a requirement in order to excel in cycling at the world stage.
3. We have the raw material
As I had mentioned, most Filipinos are familiar with bicycles at an early age, and there are quite a number of cycling events that are organized yearly.
Imagine if there is a national initiative to tap the raw talents from the provinces and to train them up to world-class standards.
4. We have the coaches
Joselito “Cado” Santos won gold medals for the Philippines in the Asian Games, and continues to be active and share his knowledge in developing cyclists for future competitions.
What the Filipino cyclists need are world-class equipment, proper nutrition and sports science provided by a team of experts, as well as timely exposure and acclimation in world events.
5. We have the terrain
The Philippines is blessed with numerous mountainous areas such as the hills of Sierra Madre and the Cordilleras where our cyclists can train. Indeed, the success of Pangasinense riders in past cycling tours may be attributed to their easy access to the Baguio routes for training.
6. We have a local bike brand
The high cost of bicycle frames may be a thing of the past. Paul Laurence Tan is the owner of the DEVEL brand, which is a bike frame that is approved for international competition by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
What the Filipino cyclists need are world-class equipment, proper nutrition and sports science provided by a team of experts, as well as timely exposure and acclimation in world events. This can become a reality with the full support of government and private corporations.
Millions of pesos are spent to bring in athletes with foreign-sounding names with the hope that these imports would result in Olympic gold. Instead, a God-fearing homegrown talent became the country’s shining star in Hidilyn Diaz. I am hoping that the right amount of financial support could also be given to cycling which, I am fully convinced, can bring great honor to our country in the coming Games.
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