Velasco sees PH athletes riding SEAG momentum to Tokyo 2020
Philippine Sports Institute national training director Marc Velasco said the timing of a lot of Olympic qualifiers could not have been better for Filipinos looking to book Tokyo berths with the confidence of national athletes soaring after their swashbuckling performance in the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games.
As a result, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is optimistic it can send more than the usual number of Olympians to the 2020 Summer Games.
“We are still very high with our success and it could translate into a bigger contingent in Tokyo,’’ said Velasco, also the concurrent chief of staff to PSC Chair Butch Ramirez.
Team Philippines usually sends 13 to 15 athletes from seven to nine sports to the Olympics and Velasco believes that will be surpassed with the Olympics barely seven months away.
World champion gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo and Asian champion pole vaulter EJ Obiena already qualified to the Tokyo Olympiad, which will be held from July 24 to Aug. 9. Yulo won two golds and five silvers in the biennial meet hosted by the country while Obiena ruled the pole vault event before flying to Italy to continue his training.
Several Olympic qualifiers will be held immediately after the Christmas break, including two for boxing. World champion Nesthy Petecio and Eumir Marcial, who led a 7-gold haul for the sport in the SEA Games, are top hopes of landing Olympic berths.
Weightlifting Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe are also trying to firm up their bids to make the Olympic roster. All of them also will hit their qualifying tournaments with a golden high after topping their respective events.
“The focus and energy of the PSC now is to provide for the athletes to be able to make it to the Olympics,’’ Velasco said. “An Olympic medal is better than a SEA Games medal.’’
Filipino athletes harvested a total of 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals during the recent SEA Games to capture the overall title under the leadership of Ramirez, Team Philippines’ chef de mission, and Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino.
The last time the country topped the SEA Games in 2005, it rode a wave of confidence that carried over to the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, where Team Philippines brought home four gold medals, six silvers and nine bronzes, the highest output of the country in the continental sportsfest in decades.And Velasco is hoping the same thing happens in Tokyo, with the PSC vowing to send athletes abroad for better training.
“We want those who will qualify to the Olympics to really train where they are best suited,’’ Velasco said.
Apart from Obiena, Yulo is also slated to fly out to Japan to beef up his Olympic preparation.
The country has yet to strike gold in the Olympics.
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