By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) said it is ready to take on the challenge presented by the training “bubble” of national athletes vying for a spot in the rescheduled Olympic Games, which began at the weekend at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Speaking on The Chasedown on One PH last Saturday, PSC national training director Marc Velasco shared that everything was a go as national team members for boxing, karate, and taekwondo entered the bubble to resume their face-to-face training in preparation for the qualifiers in the coming months for the Tokyo Olympics.
The PSC official, tasked to oversee the conduct of the training bubble, said the agency is fully supportive of the athletes’ push and is hoping for the success of the undertaking.
“In the bubble, we have at least 60 participants composed of athletes, coaches and staff, made up of the secretariat and medical team. All hands are on deck for this because this is the first bubble of the PSC. We’re prepared for all scenarios,” said Mr. Velasco.
How long the athletes will stay at the INSPIRE bubble depends on the preparation schedule of the different national sports associations (NSAs). but Mr. Velasco said the PSC can accommodate them for three months.
In the bubble, safety of the athletes is paramount, which is why the PSC came up with a very strict set of protocols to follow to preserve the integrity of the training facility and guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
The agency’s Medical Scientific Athletes Services (MSAS) Unit led in crafting the protocols, which took into consideration already-established measures by the World Health Organization, Department of Health, and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), and done in consultation as well with the local government of Calamba.
Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing, upon entry to the bubble and during the training, has been put in place as part of health and safety measures.
An expert group among stakeholders was also formed to aid in the interpretation and give advice on any unusual and expected results of coronavirus tests.
Mr. Velasco said the PSC recognizes that the situation with the health pandemic is fluid and that anything can happen inside the bubble, including the possibility of infection among the participants. But the sports body is committed to be on top of things.
“Of course, there is the possibility of infection. But if there would be none, the better. We have talked to the NSAs, the local government and people of INSPIRE about it,” Mr. Velasco said.
“We have a threshold discussed with them [as far infection is concerned]. If there really is an outbreak, there might be a chance to shut down the training. But if there is a positive case we have protocols in place — transporting them and placing them in an isolation center. And it’s not only the positive cases but also in cases of injuries,” he added.
Among the athletes training in the bubble are boxers Irish Magno, who already qualified for the Tokyo Games; Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Ian Clark Bautista, Riza Pasuit, Charly Suarez, James Palicte, and Rogen Ladon.
The taekwondo team, meanwhile, has 2016 Rio Olympian Elaine Alora, Kurt Barbosa, Arven Alcantara and Butch Morrison. Southeast Asian Games gold medallist Pauline Lopez is also set to train there.
Karate, for its part, has Jamie Lim, Sharief Afif, Alwyn Batican, and Ivan Agustin, to be joined later by Junna Tsukii and Joan Orbon, who are both coming from abroad.
The athletes view the training bubble as a welcome development after months of settling for virtual and individual workouts because of the coronavirus pandemic.