AYG underscores need for sound youth program
HONG KONG – The just-concluded second Asian Youth Games should serve as a reminder to all national sports associations (NSAs) on the importance of a strong youth development program.
“If we want to excel in competitions like this we must strengthen our youth program,” said Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla, chef-de-mission of the victorious Philippine contingent to Nanjing.
“We must focus on our young athletes,” he said.
The Philippines won two gold and three silver medals in the 10-day competition among 45 countries and their best athletes in the age bracket of 14-17 years.
Padilla, who mastered the rapid air pistol event, said for the second AYG they were able to assemble a good set of athletes from 13 sports disciplines.
They produced the results in golf, taekwondo and tennis with promise shown in athletics, badminton, 3-on-3 basketball, fencing, judo, rugby, shooting, swimming, table tennis and weightlifting.
Winning the gold were Mia Legaspi and Pauline Louise Lopez while providing the silver were Princess Superal, Francis Aaron Agojo and Jurence Mendoza.
The performance of the Filipino athletes in Nanjing surpassed the country’s one-silver, one-bronze effort in the inaugural AYG in Singapore in 2009.
“There should be continuity. Once you identify the talents you must push through with their development,” said Padilla, a five-time gold medalist in the SEA Games.
Padilla knows how it is being a youth athlete because when he was 12 he won the gold medal in the 1976 World Junior Shooting Championships in Mexico.
He said the Philippines should have bigger representation in the next AYG because it’s here where officials can really identify future talents.
“It is also here where we can scout the athletes from the other countries. The talent identification is here in the AYG,” said Padilla.
“And if we start training now and start scouting athletes for the next AYG then we should have a better performance in 2017 in Sri Lanka,” he added.
The Philippine Sports Commission under its chairman Richie Garcia provided the needed financial support to the 54 Pinoy athletes in Nanjing.
Padilla said the PSC approved every request from the different NSAs that fielded athletes to Nanjing, and that it played a key role in the victory.
“We are thankful to the PSC,” he said.
The Philippine Olympic Committee headed by Jose Cojuangco also rallied behind the athletes, and hoped that the country will send more entries next time.
“It’s time for all the NSAs to take the Asian Youth Games seriously,” said POC first vice president Jose Romasanta who was in Nanjing in the opening days of the competition.
Romasanta said Filipinos should look at the final medal tally of the second AYG.
Host China ruled the event with 46 gold, 23 silvers and 24 bronze medals followed by South Korea (25-13-14), Japan (7-5-6), Thailand (6-5-16) and Chinese Taipei (6-11-13).
Singapore was next at 5-12-6, Vietnam (5-4-2), Malaysia (4-6-7), North Korea (4-2-5), India (3-4-7), Hong Kong (2-5-13), the Philippines (2-3-0) and Indonesia (1-2-2).
“The irony here is that the countries that are taking their youth programs seriously are the powerhouses – China, South Korea and Japan in Asia then Thailand, Singapore or Vietnam in Southeast Asia,” said Romasanta.
“It’s time to focus more on our youth athletes,” he added.
The results of the second AYG show why.