Didal, Lopez, Tsukii lead 41 PH bets flying out in search of Tokyo tickets
IN THE next five weeks, a total of 41 Filipino athletes will see action in different qualifiers set in the four corners of the world, each seeking to make it to the Team Philippines bound for the Olympic Games kicking off July 23.
These Pinoy bidders represent 12 sports and hope to join eight others who have already qualified for the quadrennial event, easily the biggest, most prestigious sporting spectacle whose fate remains uncertain up to this time in the wake of the surging cases of COVID-19 pandemic.
Eight athletes from five sports–Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam of boxing, Hidilyn Diaz of weighlifting, world champion Carlos Yulo of gymnastics, EJ Obiena of track and field and Cris Nievarez of rowing–have made it to a national team fancied to end the long, frustrating wait for a first ever Olympic gold medal.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino and Philippine Sports Commission chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez are confident more Filipinos will qualify, mentioning the likes of golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan and slakeboarder Margielyn Didal, who all have one foot into the Olympic proper.
“I am sure that there will be more qualifiers in the coming weeks. I’m confident 12 to 15 athletes will comprise our team,” Tolentino told sportswriters.
Like Tolentino, Ramirez is pretty sure more Pinoys will join the team, adding the government agency in sports which he heads has provided the much-needed help for “our athletes to succeed from the time they started preparing until they compete in the qualifying tournaments.”
The last two weeks of May will be a busy one for Hidilyn, taekwondo jins Pauline Lopez, Kirstie Elaine Alora, Kurt Barbosa and Arven Alcantara, BMX racer Patrick Coo, Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 squad, surfers John Mark Tokong, Roger Esquivel Jr, Edito Alcala, Nilbie Blancada, Daisy Valdz and Vea Estrellado and cyclist Patrick Coo.
Didal, the reigning Jakarta Asian Games champion, and Kiko Francisco proceed to Des Moines, Iowa in a bid to boost their stock as they see action in the tough Iowa Dew Tour scheduled on May 17 to 23, before capping their qualifying campaign with a stint in the Street World championships in Rome from May 30 to June 6.
Lopez and company will compete in the Asian qualifying tournament on May 21 and 22 in Amman, Jordan, the one and only tournament scheduled in the region to produce the qualifiers for the Olympics which was cancelled last year as the pandemic went unabated.
It’s also make or break for the six surfers, who will fly half a globe away in search of an Olympic slots as they compete in the highly-competitive World Surfing Games in El Salvador from May 29 to June 9.
The BMX World Cup set May 26 to 30 in Bogota, Colombia is where BMX rider Patrick Coo will try his luck of joining the bus bound for Tokyo.
But the odds agaisnt Coo will be too huge since he will pit skills and talents against the veritable Who’s Who in this sport which made its debut in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
And there’s the Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 team made up of Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez and Mo Tauutuaa vying in the Fiba Olympic qualifier in Graz, Austria, with the odds of making it to the Tokyo tournament proper not on its side given the world-class opposition.
Saso and Pagdanganan both look a cinch in the Team PH considering their rankings in women’s golf at present.
Come the month of June, it’s the turn of the karatekas, judokas , track and field bets, swimmers and the archers to make their respective Olympic bids.
Karatekas Junna Tsukii, Jamie Lim, Joane Orbon, Ivan Agustin Agustin, Alwyn Batican and Sharief Afif fly to beautiful Paris for the World Olympic Qualification tournament from June 11 to 13. The following week, in the same French capital, the archery team takes its turn to compete in its own qualifier from June 18 to 21.
The country’s hopes in the staple events of athletics and swimming, namely, swimmer Kim Mangrobang trcksters Eric Cray and Kristina Knott and tankers James Deiparine Luke Gebbie, Remedy Rule and veteran Jasmine Alkhaldi try to meet their respective Olympic standards before the qualifying cutoff in the last week of June.
Judokas Kiyome Watanabe, Keisei Nakao and Shugen Nakano, all Filipino-Japanese, try to rumble with the world’s finest as they proceed to Budapest, Hungary for he World Judo Championships set from June 6 to 13,each seeking to strengthen their Olympic rankings.
During a recent guesting at the Philippine Sportswriters Association online Forum, Tolentino said he’s confident that this year’s team will deliver the country’s first ever Olympic gold.
“We’ll win a gold this time,” Tolentino boldly predicted.