Petecio, Diaz still have to go through qualifiers
EJ Obiena started it all. The 23-year old pole vaulter cleared 5.81 meters to capture the gold medal at a meet in Chiara, Italy, in early September, making him the first Filipino to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
By surpassing the Olympic qualifying standard by a hair’s breadth, the 6-foot-1 Obiena avoided qualifying based on world rankings—a risky route where hopefuls have to fight for positions before the Summer Games get underway.
Obiena knows what’s ahead—much more training and competition bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and individual and corporate sponsors to spring his way to the next level.
No doubt, however, that he supplied the inspiration to other athletes to excel and end our country’s quest since 1924 for a Summer Games gold under a practical push to fund individual sports rather than disciplines that cramp our game because of the competition’s height and might.
Following EJ’s lead, Carlos Yulo and lady boxer Nesthy Petecio shone on the world stage a month later. Yulo, 19, scored the more momentous victory, becoming the first Filipino world champion in gymnastics. By topping the floor exercise at the world championship in Stuttgart, Germany, late Saturday, the youngster became our second Olympic qualifier to date.
Barely 24 hours after Yulo’s triumph, Petecio ruled the featherweight division in the women’s world boxing championship in Ulan-Ude, Russia.
Their victories are a cause for celebration as the country prepares to host the 30th Southeast Asian Games later this year.
While Yulo, as a gymnastics world titlist, automatically booked a ticket to Tokyo, Petecio, 27, along with Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, 28, still have to qualify to make it to the greatest sports show on earth.
Petecio, by virtue of her gold in the women’s worlds, would have qualified for Tokyo outright. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC), now the overseer of Olympic boxing, decertified the worlds as a qualifying tournament for Tokyo.
That’s because they were organized by Aiba, amateur boxing’s troubled governing body that the IOC stripped of Olympic status recently.
Thus, Petecio and the elite boxers of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines will have to box in the Olympic qualifiers for Asia/Oceania in China in February and France in May to earn a berth to the Tokyo Games.
Weightlifter Diaz is in the same boat. Her two bronze medals in the recent world tournament in Thailand would have handed her a go-to-Tokyo card.
But things changed with a new ranking points system instituted by weightlifting’s governing body to avoid among others, doping in the sport.
It’s good Diaz now ranks third of the top eight lifters in her weight class. With the backing of the PSC, she has a huge chance to excel at the World Cup in Rome in January and the Asian championship in Kazakhstan in April to advance to Tokyo along with four other teammates, says weightlifting chief Monico Puentevella.
More on possible Olympic qualifiers next time.
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