Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Former bronze medalist Stephen Fernandez advises Pinoy Olympic hopefuls

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Former bronze medalist Stephen Fernandez advises Pinoy Olympic hopefuls
by rick olivares

With Filipino takewondo jins in full preparation for the two precious slots up for grabs in the upcoming Olympic Qualifiers, Stephen Frenandez, former Olympian and now Athletics Director for the College if Saint Benilde, took time to reflect on the task ahead of his fellow athletes.

“The Olympics is a whole new level,” said Fernandez in an interview with Rappler. Fernandez competed in the 1988 Seoul, Korea and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. “The competition is significantly higher and the best in the world. There are more countries in the Olympics than in the United Nations (204 to 193) and after so many rounds of competition, whoever goes to the Summer Games is a winner and a champion in his own right. But to win a gold means you are the best in this planet.”

Fernandez however cautioned the Filipinos who are preparing for the Olympic Qualifers that will be held in Manila this April. “You do it for the right reasons,” he simply stated.

When Fernandez booked his ticket to Seoul in 1988, he admitted he went there for all the wrong reasons. “I wanted to be famous; to be rich,” he confessed. “In short, I was selfish. And I paid for my arrogance. It isn’t an easy thing to admit but I lost my focus.” Fernandez, one of the countries best medal hopefuls that year was booted out in the first round of flyweight competition by Italian Geremia Di Constanzo.

“It was a sobering experience for me,” he later reflected. “I was young and immature thinking I was a hotshot. Then reality hit me square in the face that maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. I prayed long and hard for one more chance. One more chance to do it right and to redeem myself for the Philippines.” 

Four years later, Fernandez once more made the national team to Barcelona. Only this time, he was burdened not only by a dream of redemption but also for hope. “My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer at that time and I left for Spain with a heavy heart. I wanted to win this not only for the country that hasn’t had much luck in terms of medals but also for my mother.”

This time, Fernandez, moving up in weight class to the bantamweight division, made it almost all the way, winning a bronze medal this time against another Italian, Domenico D’Alise. “When the national anthem was played, I had tears coming down my face. I have heard our national anthem played so many times before that but at that time, it was the best. I cried also because this is for the country. And most especially, for my mother.” 

“What our athletes need today is more exposure,” advised Fernandez. “You can say that when we get there, we are in awe of some of these athletes who we read and know about and are in some ways, celebrities of the sport. But other countries also come in the same way. I think going to the olympics, you not only train hard but you need to get exposed to top flight competition to know where you are and what to improve on. But equally important is the focus. Focus, you hear it a lot but that makes the difference.”

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