Lifter’s Rio slot not confirmed
TIME is their biggest enemy.
With the months dwindling to a precious few, Filipino athletes are still in a mad rush to earn tickets to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Our Olympic hopefuls have up to July to finally nail slots via various qualifying tournaments or they will have to go through the back door to make it to the opening of the Games on Aug. 5.
As of today, the Philippine Olympic Committee can count only three athletes who’ve made it to Brazil on their own power—hurdler Eric Cray and boxers Charly Suarez and Roger Ladon.
POC executive Romy Magat explains that even Ladon is not a cinch to make it to Rio because he has to face off with fellow Filipino light flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga in the final Aiba World Olympic Qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Because of limited ring slots for Asia and Oceania, every country in the region can field only one fighter in the same weight category in Rio.
A fourth hopeful, lifter Hidilyn Diaz is not yet an official Olympian because her third place finish at a world meet in Houston, Texas, in November that’s supposed to have earned her a spot in Rio remains in limbo. It still awaits formal certification from the International Weightlifting Federation.
The POC, through Magat, the secretary general of the Philippine Tennis Association, has identified at least 16 athletes, including the three official qualifiers and Diaz, lifter Nelson Colonia and golfer Miguel Tabuena who could make the trip to the Brazil Summer Games.
Surprisingly not in the POC’s radar is pole vaulter E.J. Obiena who is among the elite tracksters competing in this week’s national invitational athletics championships at Philsports in Pasig.
Obiena is working hard under the watchful eyes of Russian mentor Vitaly Petrov.
I reported earlier that Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association president Philip Juico said he believes the 20-year-old Obiena will eventually make it to Rio.
That’s because Obiena cleared 5.45 meters—close to the 5.7m Olympic qualifying standard while training at Philsports before leaving late last year for Poland to train under Petrov.
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Ed Picson, Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (Abap) executive director, told me last week that it’s still “evaluating” boxers who will compete in the next qualifying competitions after the just concluded Asia-Oceania finals.
Fighters who have yet to see action are led by London Olympian Barriga, Junel Cantancio and women standouts Irish Magno and Josie Gabuco.
The remaining qualifying tournaments are the Women’s championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, the APB-WSB qualifiers in Sofia, Bulgaria, in May and the Aiba event in June.