For now, you may call them the country’s Starting Five.
The Philippine contingent found a seventh member to the London Olympics this July when veteran judoka Tomohiko Hoshina qualified in the men’s plus-100 kilogram category through a worldwide ranking by the International Judo Federation.
According to the website of the IJF, Hoshina, a 24-year-old Filipino-Japanese whose mother hails from Bulacan, secured an Olympic berth after ranking 28th out of the 32 qualifiers for the weight category.
Hoshina, who has campaigned mostly in Europe, earned the London ticket after garnering 27 ranking points during the 2011 world judo championships in Paris and last year’s Asian championships.
The Tokyo-based high school teacher will join boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, long jumper Marestella Torres, steeplechase entry Rene Herrera and skeet shooter Brian Rosario in the July 27 to Aug. 12 Olympics.
“He’s a dark horse for the bronze,” said judo coach Lorie Paja of Hoshina, who ranks 97th in the world in his division. “I hope he gets lucky in the draw and avoids strong opponents in the early stages.”
Six-time heavyweight world champion Teddy Riner of France looms as the favorite in Hoshina’s weight category.
Paja said the Tokyo-born Hoshina collected enough ranking points required by the Judo Union of Asia. His inclusion finally broke a string of heartaches for Filipino judokas in Olympic qualifying.
Hoshina, a silver medalist in the 2007 Thailand Southeast Asian Games, did not compete in the 2009 edition because of personal problems and in last year’s Games after host Indonesia scratched the weight class.
John Baylon, a nine-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, and Jerry Diño were the last Filipino Olympic qualifiers in the sport, having vied in the 1992 Barcelona Games.
“It’s a welcome development,” said Team Philippines chef de mission Manny Lopez. “Hopefully, it could increase our medal chances.”