MANILA, Philippines – Jasmine Modjeh hauled in 6 gold medals and broke two national junior records in the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa swimming tournament, but her talents have long been ignored by the sport's national association for one reason: she is a member of the Philippine Swimming League (PSL).
Mojdeh dreams of becoming one of the world's greatest swimmers; competing in the Olympics and smashing records that have been set by the greats who have dedicated their lives to the sport.
Hailing from a country that hasn't brought home a gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games for the last 8 years, the 11-year-old Mojdeh has become the rallying beacon of the PSL in its fight for a unified national team. And now, the PSL's hopes of a unified swimming association just might be in sight.
"It’s history for me because for the longest period of time, swimming [was] not democratized," said PSL president Susan Papa.
"We really appreciate the unification and the message of Ral to me that he is opening the selection process of the national team, which has been the only problem that the Philippine Swimming League has."
Photo by First Tier Media
Hopeful Philippine Swimming Inc (PSI) president Ral Rosario initiated the call by messaging Papa, his teammate from the golden years of Philippine swimming. The Asian Games gold medalist believes there's a pressing need to unite the swimmers for the country to bring back the glory days of Philippine swimming.
"The issue with PSL has been a long standing issue with PSI and I think it’s time to bring it to an end, it’s time to bring the new era. Yes, we should do it for the benefit of the swimmers, for the benefit of the whole swimming community," said Rosario.
Rosario and his allies, including Papa, are still waiting for ther results of the POC's arbitration committee to determine the rightful president of the PSI.
Rosario was elected as PSI president in March 2017, however, PSI secretary general Lani Velasco, a known associate of the previous Peping Cojuangco-backed PSI leadership, is contesting the top position. But, like the rest of so-called "old POC club," she currently does not enjoy the new POC's support.
Photo by First Tier Media
In the meantime, the POC-backed president announced his initial plans of actions that garnered the support of Papa, who reiterated that it is not the PSL's goal to become the offical NSA.
"I think number one is to mend the broken community," said Rosario
"During our board meeting in Bacolod, I told them you have to work with me, if you want to work with me, you need to follow what I want and one of the things I wanted is unification."
"Number two, we need to be an inclusive community," added the PSI leader.
"[With] more programs running, the population of swimmers go up, and that means there are more talents to choose from. That’s the pathway that we need to look at, from there we are looking to develop senior swimmers."
In both organizations, government-funded development programs are almost non-existent.
While PSI requires an annual membership renewal with a fee, the PSL offers avenues for the less fortunate to swim and has expanded its focus across 14 regions of the country, becoming a breeding ground of young, promising swimmers throughout the years.
For years, PSI has only selected national team swimmers from its pool of members, who are then sent to compete in FINA-accredited competitions like the Southeast Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Age Group competition.
However, for PSL swimmers, their only exposure to the international scene is by joining invitationals and nab an Olympic chance by hitting the Qualifying Time A to solidify their presence in Philippine swimming.
This is what Mojdeh has been doing for the past years of swimming competitively according to her mother, Joan.
"In the [2017 Hamilton Aquatics Winter Long Course Swimming Championships], she swam 20 events and won 18 gold medals. Na-invite kami doon and unlimited events, so pinalangoy sa kanya lahat – 20 in two days with prelims and finals. (We were invited and it was unlimited events, so they made her swim all)," said Joan.
"Puro invitational ito so it's between mga clubs. Pero yung mga nakakalaban niya, national team na ng mga ibang bansa like Singapore, so nakikita ko na sila na nakakasabay na ni Jasmine."
(We only swim in invitationals, so it's between the clubs. But Jasmine has been competing with the national team members of Singapore and she can keep up with them.)
Before being welcomed by PSI's Rosario and Akiko Thomson, Papa has already instilled the goal-getter mindset on the 11-year-old to and encouraged her to always swim her best for a chance to compete in the Olympics.
This kind of focus has pushed Jasmine to just keep on swimming even if her talent hasn't been recognized by the national association.
Photo by First Tier Media
"Ang teaching ni coach Susan [Papa] sa kanya is that she can qualify for the Olympics, basta makuha niya ang QTA. The politics, kami na 'yung mga mas matatanda [ang bahala] to fight for the cause, siya naman focus lang siya sa training," explained Joan.
(Coach Susan Papa taught her that she can qualify for the Olympics as long as she nabs QTA. The older ones will be in charge of the politics, while you focus on training.) – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.