After the SEA Games, Olympic hopefuls race against time next
After performing for Team Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games starting the end of November, local athletes aspiring to qualify for the 2020 Olympics will race against time next.
With barely a year before the Summer Games, the hopefuls, with the financial backing of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and support by private sponsors, will scatter to the Four Winds, to places that serve as embarkation points to Tokyo.
The PSC has already spent P1 billion for the training and foreign exposure of our athletic delegation to the SEA Games we are hosting on Nov. 30-Dec. 11. The sports funding agency will shell out more for wannabe Olympians when they compete in international tournaments that serve as Olympic qualifiers.
PSC Commissioner Charles Maxey reports that the PSC board will deliberate on the additional government funding at its next scheduled meeting.
Prospective Olympians in boxing, weightlifting, athletics, golf, skateboarding, 3×3 basketball and swimming will be hard at work because their clock runs out in June to directly and indirectly book tickets to the Japanese capital.
Football chief Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, chef de mission (CDM) to Tokyo, said that based on current records of the candidates, plus gender equality rules in lieu of wild-card invitations from the International Olympic Committee, 14 athletes to date have a shot at Olympic glory. That’s four less than the 18 forecast by volleyball vice president Joey Romasanta, the guy Araneta replaced as CDM.
For perspective, we were able to send 13 athletes to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games where weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz captured a silver medal, 15 in Beijing in 2008 and 11 athletes—our smallest Olympic presence—in London in 2012.
But despite the increasing difficulty in gaining passage to the greatest sports show on earth, Araneta still hopes that the enthusiastic effort by the PSC, with assist from the business world for potential aspirants, should result in “surprise qualifiers,” especially in weightlifting and boxing.
More berths in Tokyo augur well for our country’s chance to end a 95-year quest for a Summer Games gold, according to Araneta.
With the July 28, 2020 opening of the Tokyo Olympiad just around the bend, we have a grand total of two athletes—world gymnastics champion Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena—who have qualified so far.
Strong Olympic candidates include Diaz and four of her weightlifting teammates, women’s world featherweight boxing champ Nesthy Petecio, men’s world silver medalist Eumir Marcial and a slew of the country’s elite amateur boxers, golfer Yuka Saso, skateboarder Margielyn Didal and the 3×3 men’s basketball squad.
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