Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jack Howard Under-performed at Beijing

Four years ago in Athens twin brother John Howard set the FSM record in 100 meter at 10.85 seconds in a fast heat in which John ran at the immediate right of Ato Bolton of Trinidad. Almost as soon as that record was set, Jack Howard (other half of the pair of twins) vowed to challenge his brother's record at the next Olympic Games -- Beijing 2008.

FSM Athletics sort of gave the chance to Jack to put his dream in action. John took nearly two years off from any major athletics (track and field) competition since 2004, which paved the way for Jack to be selected by FSM National Olympic Committee as the "would-be" track male olympian comes 2008.

A three-way aggreement was reached between FSM Athetics, Jack Howard, and Mr. Carl Cruz, Jack's coach in Guam, that layed out a focused plan of action for Jack 6 months leading to the Beijing Olympics. Although it was never explicitly stated in some sort of pledge or aim, it was everyone's hope -- reasonable hope, that Jack Howard would run faster than 10.85 in Beijing.

On August 15, 2008 at around 11:45 am, Jack ran a time of 11.03 to his own dissapointment -- and dissatisfaction of the FSMAA and the FSM National Olympic Committee. Jack's personal best in this event was set in Samoa back in 2003 leading to the South Pacific Games in Fiji that year in a time of 10.87 seconds, which was the FSM record for a while until it was broken by John in Athens a year later. So what went wrong for Jack Howard at Beijing!!!??? Or, leading to Beijing?

That's something Jack will never be able to retrace and FSM must have to swallow.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

FSM Sports, Where Has It Been?

OK. So FSM has now been to three World Olympics. What does that really mean to the average kid or citizen living in any of the four states? Not much, maybe. A documentary (and perhaps promotion) of sports in the FSM was just recently released by Micsem. Actually, such documentary was a project for the FSM National Olympic Committee who "contracted" Micsem to graphically depict the history of sports in the FSM. For the most part, "Chasing The Dream", the title of the documentary, is very much appreciated.

But as our athletes once again approach the global scene in what is FSM's third Olympic experience, it is prime time for athletes, sports organizations, the NOC, to seriously assess where their efforts have been spent and whether or not they have been spent in a manner consistent with where we want to be. In other words, are we truly satisfied or happy about the way sports competitions and programs have been managed: from the village corners, school settings, island-wide recreational or competitive games, all the way to the FSM Games?

Time has come for the leaders, the stakeholders, the athletes and coaches, relevant government and non-government agencies that directly deal with sports and recreation, to give sports the attention in requires in order to ensure ourselves and our future generations that a mechanism for establishing pathways to success is continuously under construction. Judging from where we are right now, we can honestly say that very little is taking place for an uncomfortably long time at practically all homefronts. The occurences of our recreational and competitive events have been very sporadic or simply been very stagnant for a long time.

In order for our national programs to thrive, our state programs must be in motion. Event this concept has taken a vacation and is long overdue. Without this, without the most elementary basis of sports program being in motion at the grassroots level, FSM's appearance at the Olympics would be a phony and humiliating display.

So, "Chasing The Dream" is indeed a dream -- it's depiction of where sports is at the moment is in itself a perfect example of what seems to be our most consistant practice -- that is, putting a glossy picture over the true reflection of the status of sports throughout the FSM. It is a beautiful production that reveals the few "successful" stories and triumphs in fostering the visualization of Olympic dreams in spite of the many graphic pictures of delapitating and improvised sporting facilities that have stalled our chances to relish in larger scale success for FSM. Chasing The Dream needs to wake up and take a good look at Mr. and Mrs. reality right where we are.

So while our athletes warm up for their events in Beijing, we might need to poise ourselves to appreciate their present abilities and demand of them and ourselves a bolt resolve to be better. This needs to start now and not later. Sports must roll on in spite of all the difficulties. We can not afford to keep talking the fansy discourses of Olympic dreams...We must venture more deeply and more constructively into the vast forest of possibilities at home before we continue to search for high-tech modernized enterprises in global sporting glamors.

More Pictures

With President Mori after competition
Manuel Minginfel in Snatch Lift

Outside FSM Embassy, Beijing

The Road To Glory: Often A Distorted Story

There are a very very few FSM athletes who truly deserve to be at Olympic Games. Aside from consideration of achievements and performances respectable at international level, the most important requirement that spectators, sports enthusiasts, or even athletes themselves often unfairly ignore is the agony, struggle, pain, and sacrifices one has to take in to be considered amongst the world's best. For us in the FSM, one athlete that easily comes to mind in the above mentioned regard is Manuel Minginfil of Yap. There are a couple of others that I will leave to your imagination.

Yes, there is already drawing of Manuel lifting Yap's infamous stone money which has made its way onto stamps for FSM Post. And, numerous newspaper articles have been written mostly about his achievements at big competitions. And, if you've seen pictures of him, he is probably shily smiling with the broadest Yapese humble smile that belies the magnitude of the interior power and strength that have highlighted the label MICRONESIA on every recent maps of the globe.

What shall never be belittled, what FSMers need to appreciate more genuinely, is that many of these athletes actually have to endure so much more -- physically and emotionally, on personal level as well as family level -- in order to even be considered worthy of selection to the Olympic Games. Previous achievements matter -- how fast one could swim in 50 meters, how much one could lift in weightlifting, how strong once can be in Grecko-Roman wrestling, the list goes on -- but these are not the sole basis of the emergence of an olympian athlete as often narrowly implied by sports-loving people in our islands. This is simply not the case for all our FSM athletes who have made headways right into the heart of the Olympic experience. The amount of work load, the need for fidelity to intense training and learning, the lonesome demand to deny other gratifying experience and enjoyments -- in conjuction with the responsibilities inherent in being a son/daughter, a student, a youth leader, an employee, etc. are what constitute the total story of an amazing athlete. It is not the medal garnered at previous games. Not the latest 100 meter sprint time. Not complicated dexterity in style or skills and mastery of rules in any one given sport. As important as these may be, glory for an athletes can not be deduced from statistics. Perhaps for the FSM, greatness for athletes is most important when it is seen in the totality of what it takes to be a "person-athlete" who lives his/her life on the edge, pushing to be better as a Micronesian person and as an athlete from FSM.

So whether you're a naysayer or an all-out fan of FSM athletes at the Olympic Games (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008), I believe we can agree on one consideration: the road to Olympics for FSM can be spelled in 7 letters: A R D U O U S. It has never been a free-ride given discriminately to a certain few whose fateful luck ends in itself -- nothing but luck -- and therefore negates the mainstream notion of Olympic Games to have always been one for the champions and bests of the world.

After all is said and done, when the sun sets on the Olympic Games with assurance that it will rise again in the next four years, the only thing that matters is that some people bust their ends for our country to have a chance of globally merited glory. Indeed, the road to greatness and glory for our athletes begins and ends at home. It is the road leading home. It is a glorious road that is often sadly missed in the narrow-minded analyses solely based on gold, records, or sensational performances. Manuel Minginfel's story depicts OUR collective story of struggle. And although his lifts only ussually takes fraction of a second, his arduous story has taken him a long way from and to Home. Saying that is for me an understatement of the feat he has gone through that his mute medals can never adequately summerize.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

President Mori Congratulates Olympic Athletes

Before the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics unfolded, President Manny Mori greeted the FSM Athletes, Coaches, and Chinese support staff at the FSM Embassy. President Mori impressed on the athletes that their presence at the Olympic Games would be a lasting lesson and experience that they will cherish and share with others.

Mr. Berney Martin, President of the FSM National Olympic Committee thanked the FSM Government for its support to this team and kindly asked President Mori to keep up with the level of interest and support for sports he has exhibited in the approval of funding for this 2008 Olympic Games delegation.

Also present at the welcome reception were Governor Anefel of Yap State, Congressman Twiter Aritos of Chuuk State, Dr. Vita Skilling, Secretary of Health and Socail Affairs, FSM Ambassador to China, Carlson Apis, all staff of the embassy, Mr. Jim Tobin, Secretary-General of the FSM National Olympic Committee, as well as some FSM students attending various universities in China.

FSM Athletes At Beijing Olympics

The FSM Delegation was greeted at the Olympic Village on August 6, 2008 with a short but formal ceremony of flag raising and display of the national anthem. The Mayor in charge of the Olympic Village presented a silvery plague as a welcome gift to teh team, which was reciprocated through Mr. Alik Aisek, Chef de Mission for Team FSM, with a gift of beautiful handicraft with engraving Beijing 2008 . The official welcome ceremony for FSM was jointly done along with Team France and Team Nauru.