PH judokas serving as frontliners
While most athletes and coaches stay indoors amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the majority of the national judo team is out on the streets, risking their lives as front-liners in the battle against this health crisis.
Two-time Olympian John Baylon, an Air Force sergeant who now shares his expertise as national coach, is deployed in Cavite since the enhanced community quarantine began two months ago.
The 54-year-old Baylon, Philippine judo’s venerated luminary who won nine straight Southeast Asian Games gold medals, is also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belter.
Airman first class Gilbert Ramirez, who bagged a silver medal in the SEA Games last year (men’s 81kg), is likewise at the center of the action, busy aiding the containment of the virus in the highly-critical Sampaloc area in Manila.
“Our national coaches and athletes in the uniformed service are proudly helping the country in the campaign to stop COVID-19 from further infecting our communities,’’ said Philippine Judo Federation president Dave Carter.
SEA Games medalists Jenielou Mosqueda and Helen Dawa, both police officers, have been deployed on the front line as well as the Coast Guard’s Jackielou Escarpe and Bryn Quillotes who are both SEA Games bronze team event winners.
Other members of the national judo squad required to serve the public in the current pandemic are head coach Franco Teves of the Philippine Navy, and athletes Marco Tumampad of the airport police, PH coast guard’s Alvin Mendoza and PH Army’s Lloyd Dennis Catipon.
“Their sacrifice is invaluable. They help keep our citizens safe amid this crisis,’’ said Carter.
Meanwhile, Japan-based judokas Kiyomi Watanabe, siblings Shugen and Keisei Nakano and Mariya Takahashi have been keeping themselves in shape while awaiting for Olympic qualifying meets to be rescheduled.
Watanabe, who captured the women’s 63kg gold medal three SEA Games in a row, has now fully recovered after dislocating her left elbow in a competition last February.
According to Carter, Watanabe, whose mother hails from Mandaue City in Cebu, is a top Olympic candidate.
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