Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Philippines' hopes for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics
There may be NO snow in the Philippines, however, the same will never be a deterrent for a group of proud Filipinos to represent the country at the most prestigious worldwide sporting event, the Olympics.
"The first truly tropical nation to compete in the Winter Olympic Games is the Philippines, who sent two alpine skiers to the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. Ben Nanasca placed 42nd in the giant slalom event (out of 73 entrants)..."
In the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Raymond Ocampo, a chief litigator for a computer firm in Belmont, California, represented the Philippines in luge. A copy of the story by MICHAEL JANOFSKY (New York Times) is below:
OLYMPIC PROFILE: RAYMOND OCAMPO; One-Man Luge Team With Tale of 2 Flags
By MICHAEL JANOFSKY
Published: November 29, 1987, NY TIMES
IT wasn't much more than a year ago that the final approval was granted, and the Philippines had itself a Winter Olympics team for the first time since 1972. Although there were dark moments in the campaign, like the time a government official was detained at the airport in Manila and forced to turn over important papers intended for the nation's Olympic Committee, persistence and sincerity won out.
Come Feb. 13, when athletes from 60 countries march through McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta, for the opening cermonies of the XV Winter Games, Raymond Ocampo, a luger, will be marching right along with them, carrying the flag of the Philippines. He's the team. It is unlikely many other athletes have worked as hard as Ocampo, preparing for the Games. Not only did he learn his sport from scratch, starting barely two years ago, he had to convince Philippine Government and Olympic officials that his intentions were honorable and within the rules of the International Olympic Committee, which allow an athlete to represent the country of his birth, so long as he has not competed in the same sport for another country.
Still, it took some doing: Ocampo's parents left the Philippines 24 years ago. Now 34, he is the chief litigator for a computer firm in Belmont, Calif., a small city south of San Francisco. Paper Trail Is Hardest
''Luging is hard enough,'' he said the other day from Calgary, where he was training. ''The paper trail was the hardest part.'' Ocampo was struck by the idea of participating in the Winter Olympics sometime after the 1984 Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He noticed someone named George Tucker had represented Puerto Rico in the luge competition, and he knew Puerto Rico was no more a hotbed of cold-weather sports than the Philippines. So, at the urging of a friend, he began to make a few inquiries.
In short order, Ocampo was reading any luge-related material he could find and watching tapes of ABC's coverage of the 1980 Games in Lake Placid and the 1984 Games. Dry-land training on a sled with wheels followed, and last winter, he made his racing debut at Lake Placid, finishing seventh in the over-30 division of the Empire State Games. One of those he beat was George Tucker. Meanwhile, through the Philippine consulate in San Francisco, he sought to contact the Philippine Olympic Committee in Manila, asking permission to represent the country in international competition. ''It was an ongoing process,'' he said. ''People in the Philippines don't know what luge is. People in America don't know what luge is.'' A Serious Quest
By last March, after his debut, he convinced officials at the consulate that his quest was serious. One official, who was about to leave for Manila on other business, offered to speak to the Olympic Committee on his behalf.
But these were tenuous times in the Philippines. A new Government, headed by Corizon Aquino, had just taken over, and Ocampo suspected the official who was to do his bidding still had ties to the former ruler, Ferdinand Marcos, who had fled the country in late February. At least that's what Ocampo thought when the official was stopped at the airport and all his papers were taken, including those that related to Ocampo. ''I had to start all over,'' he said. The United States Luge Federation helped by sending a letter of recommendation to the Philippine Olympic Committee. Ocampo wrote to Mrs. Aquino's vice president, Salvador H. Laurel, and to Francisco Almeda, the secretary general of the Olympic Committee, who rejected Ocampo's application at first. But Ocampo persisted. He sent more letters to Almeda, and more telex messages. ''It was an exhausting process,'' Ocampo said. ''More exhausting than lugeing.'' Frustrated, he telephoned Almeda. ''I had to make someone realize I was serious,'' he said. ''Sometimes, if there are questions of skepticism, people don't react to them until they are face-to-face. It's easier not to react. I had to convince him I was serious.'' Approved as Participant
Finally, he did. Almeda accepted the application, and in due course, the international federation for luge approved the Philippines as an Olympic participant.
Meanwhile, Ocampo was investing more of himself and his money in the sport. He became so dedicated, that when he interviewed for his current position and the corporation executives asked what his priorities would be if he had a big case to handle, that or the Olympics, he told them, ''I would choose the Olympics.''
''If I had told them anything else,'' he said, ''they wouldn't have hired me because they knew I would have been lying.''
By the Olympics, he figures he will have slid down a course about 400 times and spent as much as $20,000 for travel, accommodations and equipment. A new sled, alone, costs almost $700.
Through it all, the honor of representing his native country remains his most fervent motivation, even though he has not been back to the Philippines since before President Marcos left power. He bought his first sled second-hand from the United States Luge Associaton and named it, ''The Cory Aquino Express.''
''I'm about as dual a citizen as you can be,'' he said. ''Because of my birth and my ancestry, part of me is always there.'' Only a Long Shot
Success in the Olympics, he said, is of secondary importance. The Italian, East German and Soviet teams will most likely dominant the competition. The American team is only a long shot to win medals. Likewise, the Philippines team.
''A medal is not something I'm shooting for,'' Ocampo said. ''Winning one would be neat, but whether I win one or not, it would be nice to bring a focus to the Philippines for something other that the troubles they have been having. That's just the way I feel.''
With the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics returning to Canada in Vancouver, the focus is on two top-notch Filipino athletes vying for a spot to compete with the world's best. Eden Roa Serina and Kenneth Carson will hopefully carry the Philippines' flag in Vancouver!
Eden Roa Serina
# Philippine National Snowboard Team,
Captain & Athlete (10 years)
# First Filipina on the Philippine National Team & World Cup Circuit
# Over 130 Race Starts, 24 World Cup Starts, 10 World Championship Starts
# Four-time World Championships participant, 6 Years on the World Cup
~ from www.firstfilipina.com
Kenneth Anthony Carson was born on June 2, 1981 in Sacramento, California. His parents, Carrie Graham and Kerry Carson, split when he was 2 and he was raised with his biracial Filipino and African American father in a household that emphasized athletics and discipline. Kenneth played baseball all throughout high school and it wasn’t until after that he realized his passion and skill for snowboarding. His persistence and determination led him to begin competing in the extreme sport of Boardercross. Equivalent to the popular sport of Motocross but on a snowboard, Boardercross combines speed, jumps and sharp turns as racers fly down a narrow snow packed course to the finish line.
After a few short seasons of local competition, Kenneth decided to take his passion to the next level. In the 2008-2009 Winter, he finished his most eventful season to date. After taking first place in the majority of the local Tahoe regional events, in April of 2009, Kenneth earned a spot at the USASA National Championships in Copper Mountain, Colorado. He would compete in his main event, Boardercross, and a few minor events. With his Mother and sister in the crowd, Kenneth made his way through the field of competitors, graduating into the Boardercross Finals. After an exhausting final run, Kenneth crossed the finish line in second place, taking home the Silver Medal. The rest of the week also proved successful, with a 4th place finish in Men’s Slalom and a 6th place finish in Men’s Giant Slalom.
During the 2009 offseason, Kenneth came across the media coverage of a local competitor affiliated with the Republic of the Philippines. After some research and communication with the head of the committee, he learned that the Philippines was in the process of assembling a winter sports team. As a 2nd generation multi-racial Filipino-American, Kenneth filed the needed paperwork to compete under the Republic of the Philippines Flag. The good news came in the form of an email in mid July, when the Philippine Ski Federation welcomed Kenneth to the roster of the 2009-2010 team.
As a member of the Philippines National Team, the door has been opened to compete internationally. The International Ski Federation (FIS) hosts events across the globe, including stops in Argentina, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand. The 2009-2010 season is a Winter Olympic year, and enough points this year will mean a possible spot at Olympic Trials.
For Kenneth, competing at this level would be a dream come true. More importantly, representing his family and a culture that has been such a prominent part of his life would be a tremendous achievement. As a proud Filipino American athlete from Northern California, Kenneth hopes to represent his family, friends, and entire community. His ultimate goal is to not only bring home gold, but to also be a positive representation of what it means to be Filipino American and an influential role model and trailblazer for others like him. ~ from Kenneth Carson's online blog