Photo: Arvin Lim
The saying, "Time heals all wounds", seems to be true in all aspects of life.
Relationships, business, and the natural progression of life comes with its fair share of grief and pain. The same holds true in sports.
As a member of Gilas Pilipinas, I've been thrust into the emotional roller coaster known as international competition. Blessed to be on the court for some of the biggest wins/accomplishments in the countries prestigious basketball history, I've also had to overcome some of the nation's biggest hardcourt disappointments. (Most recently, failing to bring the Philippines back to the Olympic stage.)
Coming into this year's' Olympic Qualifying Tournament, expectations were high and the country was eager to be represented in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It seemed like the stars were aligning for us to do exactly that. The two power companies in Philippine basketball put aside their differences and agreed to make all the players available for selection. Our world-class coach, coming off an impressive Silver Medal in FIBA Asia, was onto his second major tournament with familiar faces and an enhanced system. And the biggest advantage of all...the tournament would be held right here in Manila, in front of our countrymen and biggest supporters!
But as perfect as things may have seemed, things didn't work out as planned. Even after blow-out losses to Turkey and Italy (played in their respective countries) raised questions in Manila, the team remained a strong unit and looked to improve. In less than two weeks time, a more competitive game played against the Turkish squad (but a loss, nonetheless) on home soil prior to the OQT, gave a thought of "hey we are better than we thought" by both the team and supporters.
With a sudden rush of confidence, Gilas Pilipinas walked on the court and fought until the end against a NBA-veteran laden France National Team, led by Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs) and Boris Diaw (Utah Jazz). Fighting until the end has been a running theme with the Gilas program since its creation, and the battle cry "PUSO!" has been adopted by teams of various sports throughout the country. The opening night loss turned into another "close but no cigar" experience for the team and country, which had opportunities to pull off one of the greatest upsets in basketball history.
Down but not out, Gilas turned its attention to New Zealand. In a must-win situation, the squad was unable to match the intensity and execution displayed by the Kiwis. This sudden drop off from such a courageous performance the night before against an elite France team, was disheartening for the fans and even more so for the players. As the clock ticked away, the team saw its Olympic dreams fade away as the buzzer sounded. Just like that; all the preparation, practice and sacrifices took a back seat to the feeling of disappointment and failure.
Through it all we remained a team, and continue to pray for the country's progress.
(Photo: Arvin Lim)
It's been nearly a month since our Rio dreams faded away, and to be honest the wound is still fresh. But as the saying goes, "time heals all wounds". I just wish it came with a concrete date on when my mind would be clear of a lost opportunity for our flag and country. But more than anything, our country should not lose hope. Until then, we continue to seek the Olympic dream.