FOCUS on talent scouting.
Former Gintong Alay executive director Michael Keon gave this advice to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richard Bachmann after the former paid tribute to his best athlete he has ever produced from his grassroots program — the late great Lydia de Vega-Mercado.
“There’s so much talent in Philippine sports and this why when the chairman of the PSC came to visit me in Laoag, we talked to one another about what is most important when it comes to Philippine sports now and I made a suggestion to him that the PSC along with the NSAs (National Sports Associations) should concentrate in talent scouting,” said Mr. Keon during a tribute speech on Ms. De Vega-Mercado, who was elevated by the Philippine Sportswriters Association to hall of fame status during its awarding rites at the posh Diamond Hotel Monday night.
“There’s so much talent in this country that fall through the cracks of the system and it’s really sad, so this is why I suggested to him (Mr. Bachmann) and I believe he is listening to me and he would initiate talent scouting,” added the now Laoag City Mayor.
Proof of the pudding was Mr. Keon’s Gintong Alay product Ms. De Vega Mercado, who was at a tender age of 16 years old in 1980, or the year after the creation of the fabled Gintong Alay was created, broke the national, Southeast Asian and Asian Games records in one memorable run in the 400 meters of the UAAP versus Gintong Alay meet.
Ms. De Vega-Mercado would later emerge with two gold medals in the Asian Games, four in the Asian Athletics Championships and nine in the SEA Games and set numerous records that cemented her status as one of the best, if not the best, athletes the country has produced.
And Mr. Keon believed she could have won more.
“We had 22 athletes, one was Lydia (De Vega-Mercado) and we went to Baguio, trained for six months and in the UAAP vs. Gintong Alay in May, 1980, Lydia ran the 400m and she broke Asiad, SEA Games and Philippines records by 54.60 at the age of 16,” said Mr. Keon.
“If Lydia had continued to train from 16 to 24 years old, she could have easily broken 50 seconds, which could have won her an Olympic medal and she could have been Olympic champion for me.”
“In fact, Ms. PT Usha, Lydia’s greatest rival, won an Olympic bronze in the 400m hurdles,” he added. — Joey Villar