Before the Asian Games, the Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragonboat Federation (PCKDF) – which used to be simply the Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation before it usurped dragon boating in the Philippines – came out with a series of press releases on the supposed accomplishments of their dragonboat team in the Asian Dragonboat Championship. They trumpeted their winning results to fool the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) into believing they would win 5 to 6 medals in the Asian Games. (Read: Philippine Dragon Boat Team Eye 5-6 Medals in Asian Games) Sadly, these ‘praise’ releases were nothing but half-truths and lies. These need to be exposed so that people may know the real score. There is a need to unmask the true motives of their propagandists. Their evil agenda is simply to perpetuate an unjust and selfish act. That hidden agenda is to stamp a veil of legitimacy over the PCKDF after dragonboating was unjustly stripped from the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF), and given to them by Peping Cojuangco in 2011.
One press release highlighted the gold medal won by the PCKDF ‘Taytay boys’ in the recently-concluded Asian Dragonboat Championship (ADC) men’s small boat 200m. PCKDF claimed that its record was the fastest time in the continent. That was a BIG LIE. To say that it was the fastest time in the continent is quite a stretch, for it definitely was not. If PCKDF were to be totally honest, it was the fastest time for that race alone. Period.
For the record, the ADC is an event under the International Canoe Federation (ICF), which is NOT THE RECOGNIZED WORLD GOVERNING BODY FOR THE SPORT. If you google ‘Dragon Boat’ in the internet, Wikipedia will tell you that the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) is the recognized world governing body for the sport. (Please read: Racing [under Dragon Boat]) Wikipedia further explains that ‘ICF also has a small Dragon Boat programme for those member Canoe Federations with an interest in Dragon Boat sport’. That said, ICF dragonboat events are not the bread-and-butter events for the ICF. They are mere sideshows ‘for those federations interested in the sport’, hence are treated as fun events.
That supposed Asian Dragonboat Championship was not an IDBF event. China Daily, the local news daily covering the event, reported that the ADC had only 200-plus participating paddlers from a mere 8 countries, a far cry from IDBF-hosted competitions which are more competitive and bring out thousands of paddlers.
In many more press releases, PCKDF claims that it holds the world records in certain events. (Please read: Philippines Breaks World Records on Way to 4 Gold Haul in Taiwan Dragon Boat Meet) Perhaps, they should be more truthful and simply call it an ICF record, not a world record. Again, ICF is not the recognized world governing body for the sport. It is the IDBF. Their bogus world records will pale in comparison to that of the records set in IDBF tournaments. This was clearly exposed in the recent Asian Games, where PCKDF’s supposed best times were no match to the regular opposition.
In another press release, PCKDF claimed that ‘we in the PCKDF have a close relationship with (IDBF President) Mike Thomas because we see each other during big international races.’ Why bring Mike Thomas into the picture? The statement is obviously a crude attempt to get in the good graces of the recognized world governing body. It was also a silly effort to fool Philippine sports authorities into believing that the PCKDF is recognized by the world governing body. For the record, Mike Thomas has clearly stated that the recognized and legitimate dragonboat organization in the country – insofar as the IDBF is concerned – is the PDBF, not the PCKDF. After the PCKDF’s cheap attempt to use him as a stamp of legitimacy over itself, Thomas has stated that henceforth, he will no longer attend any more dragon boat race where a contending national canoe federation is present.
PCKDF further claims that no Philippine Team can come close to the time which they scored in the said tourney. For the record, PDBF teams in the past have consistently scored competitively, even posting 2 legitimate IDBF world records way back in 2007-09. The Philippines used to dominate dragon boating in the SEA Games. All this went down the drain when the PCKDF took over. Let the records speak for themselves. During the last SEA Games, PCKDF could only account for 1 measly bronze. How the PCKDF authorities were able to convince the POC that they were capable of collecting 5 to 6 golds in the Asian Games after scoring a measly bronze in the smaller SEA Games is just mind-boggling.
To make matters worse, PCKDF coach Len Escollante even had to add snide remarks against military athletes, as the AFP’s paddlers have steadfastly remained with the PDBF. Escollante said that “enlisted personnel have the harmful tendency to prolong their stint in the national team due to dual (sic) compensation.” This statement is a stinging accusation against all soldier-athletes such as Airwoman First Class Hidilyn Diaz. Our soldier-athletes have been serving the country not just in the playing field, but in other noble endeavors in nation-building and even actual combat. To say that they are playing for the double compensation is to question a common desire among all athletes to compete, be they soldiers or not. It is an insult to our soldier-athletes to even insinuate that they are there only for the money.
Escollante further came out with more scathing remarks, clearly in a clumsy effort to protect the PCKDF’s fragile hold on dragon boating. Among others, she claims that ‘enlisted personnel have other obligations, other responsibilities’, hence were less likely to succeed. Tell that to AW1C Hidilyn Diaz. Tell that to the countless countries whose soldier-athletes are at the forefront of their country’s sports programs.
In an effort to justify the PCKDF’s fraudulent hold on dragonboating, Escollante further contends that “forming a team whose talent and ability are confined only to dragonboat is costly. PCKF is helping government by developing athletes in both canoe-kayak and dragon boat.” Her argument is flawed on two fronts. First, canoeing and dragon boating are different disciplines, and develop different muscle groups. It is ideally much, much better for an athlete to focus on only one sport to really excel. Ask the veteran dragonboat paddlers from China, etc. They will tell you the big difference. It is precisely because the PCKF is involved in 2 different disciplines, and developing different muscle groups, that causes them not to excel in a specific sport.
Second, how can she even talk about cost-effectiveness when PCKDF can show no significant accomplishments whatsoever except in ICF-sponsored light ‘pang-barangay’ competitions? Fact is, it has very little to show in canoe-kayaking, and now they want to reign in yet another field. PCKF must remember its primary focus: canoe kayaking. What have they to show for it? On the other hand, PDBF had been lording it over in the dragonboat field – regional and world-wide. Why did Peping need to kill the goose which was laying the golden eggs? (Please read: The Travails of Philippine Dragon Boating)
The results of the recent Asian Games says it all. A foreign dragonboat specialist watching the games noted that the Philippine team appeared ‘very amateurish, very rookie’, citing among others the fact it had been ill-prepared with only 1 drummer and 1 steersman for a competition of this magnitude. Considering the many races, the many boats, the fast pace in races, an extra drummer and steersman were definitely needed. Even the press release pointing to a ‘false start’ as the big excuse for their loss only made them look ridiculous. Another observer noted: if one false start rattles you, you better go back to the river you came from and just catch fish. (Read: Pinoys End Up 5th in Dragon Boat Racing)
The disastrous performance of the Philippine Canoe Kayak Dragonboat Federation in the recent Asian Games has exposed the lies the PCKDF leadership have consistently peddled to the public. They had the most number of participants, costing a big sum of money, and they bring back a big fat egg. They had vaunted claims prior to the Games. They predicted 5-6 medals, with 2 sure wins. How do you reconcile that with their actual results? Now, they come home with nothing but excuses such as the false start, the unfamiliarity with the new boats, and yet another promise to do better next time. Now, there are even claims that the boats were not sanctioned by the ICF. Simply pathetic!!!
I refrained from publishing this article prior to the Asian Games in deference to our paddler-athletes who were then competing for the country. Let me stress that this piece is not meant to malign our athletes involved, for their efforts are certainly laudable. With proper coaching, better training and more exposure from the PDBF, they will certainly stand a better chance. Rather, this is meant to expose the wrongdoings of sports officials who wish to promote their own lot, and protect their own vested interests at the expense of the development of our country’s athletes. (Please read: Unmasking the Philippine Sports Mafia)
It has been 8 years since the PCKF conspirators took over dragon boating. What do they have to show for it? Exactly 1 bronze in the SEA Games, nothing else if we don’t count their ICF ‘fun games’ (See: Philippines topped a farce 2016 Asian Dragonboat Championships with only 6 participating countries, not even 10 as advertised.) From world-renowned and feared competitors, our neighbors now look at us as whining has-beens. This is what sports politics has gifted us with.
To the POC: the ethical and correct thing to do is to let the PDBF handle Philippine Dragonboating. Reinstate them as the National Sports Association (NSA) for Dragon Boating. (Please Read: Peping’s Mafia is Still Alive in the POC) They were among the world standard bearers in the sport before. They deserve that right. The PDBF has the basic know-how, not the PCKDF which is just learning the trade from PDBF veterans. The PDBF has the credentials, not the PCKDF which is not recognized by the IDBF. The PDBF has the experience and psychological toughness, not the PCKDF which is competing (and yes, winning!) in less competitive ICF tournaments. The PDBF has the sustainability, not the PCKDF which relies mainly on the Taytay boys for its talent pool. As for the PCKDF, it should simply focus on its true mission, which is to propagate canoe-kayaking only. With that alone, they will have their hands full already. No need to be greedy about it.
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