“HELLO, I’m Jonne Go of the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Dragonboat Federation. It’s nice to meet you,”said the lady in white while shaking our hands and flashing a sincere smile on a face that could launch a thousand dragon boats.
As if such an introduction were necessary.
As if there were another lovely and charming lady walking around the confines of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex to rub elbows with leaders of the Philippine Olympic Committee and other national sports associations.
As if there were no newspaper to read, no television to watch or radio to listen to and find out about her and the many achievements of the PCKDF, which she heads since 2013.
That’s because Jonne Go, who is reportedly running as one of the top officials of the POC during the Nov. 25 elections, is not the type of person who has to go around wearing a name tag.
A few sports fans might still think she’s too good to be true to be at the helm of the Olympic sport of canoe-kayak. Or that she might be just another public relations hoax.
But to be honest, she’s real.
And in a male-dominated sports world full of aging and over-staying leaders who should already be resting at home by bedtime, Jonne Go clearly stands out.
If she were standing infront of many older leaders to talk about canoe-kayak in particular and sports in general, they listen.
Even POC president Peping Cojuangco, who is openly seeking a fourth straight term as head of the sports body and chairman Tom Carrasco, who could be supporting the still-unnamed challenger to Cojuangco in the coming elections, also listen.
Jonne Go, after all, has a lot to say.
“Although not as popular as the other sports like basketball and volleyball, canoe-kayak is one sport where we (Filipinos) can truly excel,” said Go.
“It is an Olympic sport which adheres to the time-honored motto of Citius, Altius and Fortius, or Faster, Higher and Stronger,” she added.
“In canoe-kayak, we combine the skills of an athlete in track and field, gymnastics and swimming, which is strength, stamina and agility.”
“And unlike in basketball and volleyball, we don’t exactly need height to make the difference.”
Go admitted that although canoe-kayak is a relatively new sport in the country, it could really be the source of the country’s first-ever Olympic gold.
“In fact, I have this dream of fulfilling the country’s search for the elusive first Olympic gold medal through canoe-kayak,” explained Go, while making special mention of the hard work of her coaches, Len Escollante and Diomedes Manalo.
“While boating, paddling and fishing is the main livelihood of people in our coastal communities, canoe-kayak has become only a formal sport in the country in 1997 when the PCKF was founded by Dr. Sim Chi Tat.”
“From there, there’s no stopping us from paddling for pride and honor of our country,” claimed Go, a self-confessed badminton player before falling in love with the sport when she was accepted as a volunteer in 2006.
Three years later, she was appointed as secretary-general of the PCKDF, the national governing body for canoe and kayak in the country and member of the International Canoe Federation.
And in December 2013, she assumed the position as president of the PCKDF.
“You can say I’m really a hands-on president of the PCKDF. I personally talk to my coaches and athletes. I personally see to it that they have all their needs and they get the proper training and exposure.”
“In sports as in life, there’s really no other way of doing it to be successful.”
Last month, the PCKDF- supported team brought home three golds, one silver and two bronze medals in the ICF Dragon Boat World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
The same winning formula by Go and the PCKDF will be again put into showcase when the country plays host to the 2016 Asian Championships on Nov. 11-12 in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The team surely hopes to pick up from where it left off.
Although just an Asian level tournament, Go said the host country will have its hands full against some of the best dragon boat teams in the region.
“Asian countries are very tough competitors too, when it comes to dragon boat. But I’m confident our paddlers will perform well, “ said Go, referring to the two-in-one competition that will also feature the International Club Crew Championships on the second day.
“The coming Asian Championship will be good for dragon boat and our tourism as well. We want to showcase how good Filipinos are in paddling sports.”
Go said the Philippines won the right to host the event over Malaysia and Iran.
Among the countries which have already confirmed their participation in the Palawan event are first-timer India, Iran, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.
After the Asian meet, the Southeast Asian Dragon Boat Championships will be the next stop for the team in 2017 as the sport is not included in the calendar of events of the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
“We have no water sports events in the next SEA Games, so the other federations are just planning to have our own competitions by next year.”
For now, Go is busy and leaving no stone unturned to ensure the success of the Asian Championships in Palawan on Nov. 11-12.
Two weeks later, she’ll have another major, major battle in the POC elections scheduled on Nov. 25.
And the ‘Dragon Lady’ of the PCKDF isn’t backing down from the challenge.
For Go and the PCKDF, the best is yet to come.
So, go Jonne go.
NOTES -- Congratulations to my fellow editors and staff of People’s Tonight, the country’s biggest-selling tabloid, which celebrated its 36th anniversary last Sept. 24. Edited by veteran newsman Gus Villanueva, People’s Tonight started as a hard-hitting, no-holds barred afternoon tabloid on Sept. 24, 1980. It is a member of the highly-respected Journal Group of Publications.