Credit goes to the man or a woman, who had to endure all the pain, who erred, who took the fall in defeat, or who raised his/her fist in victory in the arena.
The relative success of Team Philippines in the recent 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam was not just a full display of the Filipino athletes’ skills and fighting spirit, but it was also brought about by collaborative efforts by a whole team composed of coaches, officials, and the “support” groups.
The support team, men and women of the Philippine Sports Commission’s MSAS and massage units, also deserves a pat on the back, if not a full accolade, for a job well done.
They were the special kind, part of a motley crew that maintained sanity in the physical conditions of the more than 600 Filipino athletes in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games, making sure that the athletes’ bodies are well prepared for even the toughest competitions on the field.
The medical team members, who rotate attendance in competitions, have it all—from simple non-drowsy tablets against cold to hydration salt or mentholated oil.
One of those who benefitted from their services was kickboxing gold medalist Jean Claude Saclag, who was spent and dehydrated after his final match. He felt like vomiting, so weak and sleepy.
It turned out he needed oral dehydration salt that the medical crew handed to him. Presto, he was back to his senses to celebrate his gold medal win.
“Malaki pong tulong talaga sila sa medical tsaka sa massage. Prior to the competitions din po, may injuries ako, na treat din po ako sa Baguio and before sa laban sa Vietnam, na-massage din ako. Sobrang thankful po talaga ako sa kanila,” said Saclag, who successful defended the men’s 63.5 lowkick title he also won in the 2019 SEA Games in Manila.
A medic team member had to hop from one sport to another, at times, with a distance of 100 kilometers from each other.
The massage therapy team members were spread out to different billeting areas of Filipino athletes who were treated during their rest days in between competition dates.
Some had only five hours of sleep. They literally had their hands full with more than 600 Filipino athletes that competed in the biennial meet.
Some sports associations, the Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Federation in particular, also brought their own specialists, to make sure the athletes are in tip-top shape to unleash their best performance.
To complement the PSC’s medical and massage units, the PATAFA brought along Drolly Carvajal, a pioneer in “blading therapy” in the Philippines to help in the pain management of the athletics team.
Not so much was expected from the 33-year-old Fil-American Eric Cray before he plowed in the men’s 400m hurdles. Hampered by injuries the past two years and bothered by tightness in his hamstring, it could be said that he was not in his peak form.
Cray ignored it all and took the gold, extending his reign and winning his seventh SEA Games gold.
“I had a slight injury, my hamstring in my sciatic nerve. It flared up,” said Cray, who credited his handlers in managing the pain. “Our trainers, with amazing hands, worked on me, got me loose again, and I was able to push a little bit.”
That was Drolly Claravall he was pertaining to.
In a social media post translated into Filipino, he thanked her for the wonderful treatment done before his competition.
“Maraming salamat po, kung hindi dahil sa inyo, hindi ako 100 percent focus sa laro dahil sa mga sakit na mga iniinda ko. Napaka lakign tulong po ng treatment nio sa akin sa outcome ng laro ko,” Cray said.
Shot put gold medalist William Morrison also credited Claravall for his winning performance. “Thank you, without you, I would not have been in pain and not able to throw far. You seriously helped me out,” said Morrison in the caption of his social media post along with a picture of him holding his gold medal.
Claravall uses a special form of treatment called blading system which is a form of therapy that uses the “Hand-Held Massage Tool.”
She has her own rehabilitation clinic based in Ilagan, Isabela called Amazing Touch, which caters to athletes and those who have chronic pain problems, and designed her own utility tool.
The utility tool is used to facilitate the treatment of acute and chronic body pains of athletes, fitness and sports enthusiasts, and even individuals with body pain and mobility issues, and dysfunctions in muscles in the quickest possible time without electricity or battery assistance.
It has an ergonomic shape that purposely imitates the hands, thumbs, and fingers of the massage therapist to provide an accurate massage technique to their client.
“They (athletes) have a lot of body pains issues, and when the blade glides in the specific area of the body it eases and relieves the pains. The blade has the capacity to detect muscle adhesions that causes body pains due to over workout or repetitive wrong movement,’ said Claravall, who also happens to be the regional director of the Philippine Athletics Federation (PATAFA).
She is also a member of the National Masters Athletics of the Philippines (NMSAP) since 2016 and participated in National and several international invitational competitions in Singapore, Sabah Malaysia, and China.
“I am very honored to be part of the success of the Philippine athletics team. I will always be available and my services para atletang Pilipino, “she continued.
Claravall provided his amazing treatment to everyone in the athletics team that made a medal haul of 5 golds, 7 silver, and 14 bronzes.
The athletics team’s performance contributed heavily to the Team Philippines’ fourth place overall finish behind frontrunner Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Team PH had a total medal haul of 52 golds, 70 silvers, and 104 bronzes.
It was the best finish by the Philippines, outside its turf, in 27 years. That excludes, of course, the 2005 and 2019 editions where it won overall championships.
Of the 37 of 40 sports it took part in, the Philippines won in 22 sports, mostly in gymnastics and athletics and combat sports of kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, Muaythai, taekwondo, and wushu.
Lady cue artist Rubilen Amit, who won two of billiards’ four gold medals, likewise expressed her appreciation to the PSC’s MSAS and massage teams.
These what we call “support” groups will always be an important ingredient in the success stories of the Filipino athletes, today and in the years to come.