Zika virus ‘claims’ two PH Olympic golfers
If not for the Zika virus, the Philippines could have sent 14 athletes to the 31st Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Olympic chief of mission Joey Romasanta said Wednesday that lady golfer Dottie Ardina has been confirmed by both Rio organizers and the International Golf Federation as an Olympic qualifier after a number of top-ranked players pulled out from the Games.
But the Zika scare also forced Ardina, campaigning in the Symetra Tour the past three years, to skip the women’s Olympic golf competitions on Aug. 11-14 at the Reserva de Marapendi in Rio De Janeiro.
“The organizing committee sent me an email confirming Ardina. I was told that they will give the slot to another golfer if Ardina declines,’’ said Romasanta, also the 1st vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee. “Unfortunately, she also pulled out.’’
Golfer Angelo Que earlier opted to skip the Olympics, citing the health risks the virus could bring to his family.
The absence of Que and Ardina, left Miguel Tabuena as the only golfer in the 12-athlete delegation with 17 officials who are set to leave for Rio on July 23.
“We could have brought 14 athletes,’’ said Romasanta.
Tabuena, the country’s top shotmaker, is No. 38 in the world while Que, a three-time Asian Tour champion, wound up 59th in the Olympic rankings where the top 60 players in the men’s and women’s divisions have earned tickets to Brazil.
Ardina, a former five-time US Kids World champion, was the first alternate player to Russian Maria Verchenova, Paraguay’s Julieta Granada, Ireland’s Leona Maguire, Belgium’s Chloe Leurquin, Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe, Fabienne In-Albon of Switzerland, Czech Kiara Spikova, Austrian Christine Wolf and Israel’s Laetitia Beck.
No grand send-off
Romasanta said they’ve canceled the grand send-off for the Rio-bound athletes, who were received by President Rodrigo Duterte in a courtesy call at Malacanang on July 18.
Ian Lariba of table tennis was designated flag-bearer during the opening ceremony on Aug. 5.
Joining her in the Games are boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora, weightlifter Nestor Colonia, hurdler Eric Cray, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna, Tabuena and three-time Olympians Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting) and Marestella Torres (long jump).
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier warned the Philippine Sports Commission on the proliferation of dengue and Zika virus in the Games.
Rio organizers are bothered by the increase of Zika cases, a virus spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same species that transmit dengue.
Over 5,200 cases of microcephaly, a condition associated with the Zika, have been recorded in Rio over the past three months.
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