Five more athletics bets could join Obiena in Tokyo
After winning 11 gold medals for the Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last month, the local track and field federation is now looking at qualifying six bets to the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
And the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is acting on this right away by, first, sitting down with the top brass of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) and then making sure that all of those athletics bets who have a chance get the necessary financial push.
PSC Chair Butch Ramirez discussed the particulars of the government’s all-out support with Patafa president Philip Ella Juico for the Olympic quest as they talked about the assistance that sprinter Kristina Knott, hurdler Eric Cray, pole vaulter Natalie Uy, shotputter Willie Morrison and marathoner Christine Hallasgo will get in their respective qualifying bids.
EJ Obiena, the top male pole vaulter in the region, has already made it to Tokyo after clearing 5.81 meters in a meet in Chiara, Italy, last September. The 24-year-old Obiena also holds a world ranking of No. 14. Son of pole vault great Emerson Obiena, the second generation athlete likewise captured the gold medal in the SEA Games and went back to training in Italy during the Christmas holidays.
“Our goal is to sustain this [SEA Games] momentum in the Olympics and in the SEA Games in Vietnam 2021. We thank the PSC for its support,’’ said Juico as the Patafa aims to send its most number of bets in the Olympics when the Japan edition rolls along.
Filipino tracksters also pocketed eight silver and eight bronze medals in the SEA Games and was third overall behind Vietnam and Thailand.
Heavy support from the government has been assured by President Duterte, who pledged P100 million for the foreign exposure of Tokyo-bound athletes.
“With the President’s commitment to our national athletes, it is more than enough to sustain their foreign trips and the core team of each Olympic-bound athlete,’’ Ramirez said.
Patafa was able to send three Olympians in the previous Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro 2016 courtesy of long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal and Cray.
Knott reset the SEA Games record in the 200 meters twice, the second giving her the gold in 23.01 seconds.
She just missed becoming the fastest woman in the region after losing by a hair in the centerpiece 100 meters the next night.
Cray, meanwhile, couldn’t make it past the heats in the men’s century dash after two false starts but won his pet 400 hurdles. INQ
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