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Readying for Tokyo

PSC set to open bubble training camp doors for Olympic hopefuls; Abap tries to lure Marcial back
By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 04:02 AM December 21, 2020

Eumir Marcial (right, top photo) plans to camp at Los Angeles even as the national boxing federation tries to lure him back to the country. Pauline Lopez (below) is one of the athletes expected to enter the training bubble first. —SHERWIN VARDELEON/TRISTAN TAMAYO

The national boxing team is ready to join the training bubble of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), which opens at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, starting January—but they have a few kinks to iron out.

“We’re still working on getting all our boxers here,” said Ed Picson, Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (Abap) secretary general. “But the team is eager and ready to start training in the bubble.”

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The country’s national boxers are all in the provinces as a result of lockdowns imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. And perhaps the biggest Olympic hope among the national pugs—middleweight Eumir Felix Marcial—is in Los Angeles where he has just finished his pro debut and is looking to set up camp there for his Games preparations.“We are currently reaching out to Eumir and hopefully, we can convince him to practice with his teammates inside the bubble,” Picson said.

National athletes from boxing, taekwondo and karatedo have been nominated to enter the training bubble first, with PSC chair William Ramirez saying the early delegates will help test the sturdiness of the bubble. These athletes will train at Inspire for 90 days before national team members from other sports will be allowed in.

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“We will impose strict protocols approved by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). It has to be really strict because one positive (coronavirus) case will stop the training of our athletes,’’ said Ramirez.

The Abap, along with the Philippine Taekwondo Association and Karate Pilipinas, will pick athletes for the bubble training with priority given to Olympians and those with realistic qualifying chances.

The problem for Abap is none of its boxers are in Manila. While Marcial, who is already an Olympian, is in LA, top female bets Irish Magno and Nesthy Petecio are in the provinces.

Magno, who has already qualified for the Tokyo Games, is in Iloilo while Petecio, who is hoping to corner a Tokyo ticket via wild card qualifying tournament, is in Davao.“We are currently working with the PSC to get all our national boxers back as soon as possible. It’s going to be a bit tough because it’s not easy booking tickets during the holidays so we expect to work this all out by early January,” said Picson.

Junna Tsukii (right) is one of the country’s karate bets racing to book a Tokyo Olympics berth. —SHERWIN VARDELEON

Marcial had indicated preference for LA as his training camp but Abap is still hoping he can rejoin the team to get back to “Olympic-style” boxing.

The Tokyo Olympics, which was supposed to be held this year before it was scrubbed by the pandemic, was rescheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8 next year.

Taekwondo has named five jins with strong chances of booking Olympic berthsx: former Asian champion Pauline Lopez, 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympian Kirstie Elaine Alora, Southeast Asian Games (SEA) gold medalists Kurt Barbosa, Samuel Morrison and SEA Games silver medalist Arven Alcantara.

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Karatekas Junna Tsukii, Jamie Lim and Joane Orbon are bound for the karate Olympic qualifying tournament in Paris come June next year as well as Sharief Afif, Ivan Agustin and Alwyn Batican.

Next to enter the bubble are those preparing for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Thailand slated May 21 to 30 followed by athletes seeking to win medals in the Vietnam SEA Games near the end of the year.

Ramirez said the PSC would shoulder all the expenses of the athletes, coaches and staff inside the bubble. INQ

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