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POC: 1st Olympic gold will come in July

April 24, 2021 People's Journal 277 views

PHILIPPINE Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham Tolentino has not wavered in his belief that the country’s first ever Olympic gold medal will be delivered by the team seeing action in the pandemic-hit Tokyo Games scheduled this July.

“Pakiramdam natin, andiyan na sa pito (ang unang gold medalist). Sana, madagdagan pa,” Tolentino told sportswriters during his recent guesting at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Online Forum.

The Cavite congressman was referring to the seven Filipino athletes who have made it to Team Philippines, the latest being weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz who will compete in her fourth Olympic stint despite a poor fourth place finish a few days ago in the Asian weightlifting championships now on its
final day in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The six others who have earlier qualified to compete in the world’s biggest sporting spectacle are boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, world gymnastics champion Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena, all in the midst of overseas training.

“Malaki ang chances sa pitong ‘to, na baka andiyan na (ang first gold). Sinabi naman ni Hidilyn na magi-improve pa siya, at marami siyang i-improve sa nangyari,” Tolentino said.

In its long history of participation in the Olympics, the Philippines has yet to break through in the gold medal column. Its best harvests remain the three silver medals won by boxers Anthony Villanueva in the 1960 Tokyo Olympics and Mansueto Velasco in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and Diaz in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Unlike in the past Olympics where only the boxers were given the brightest chances of delivering a medal of any color, today’s team boasts of several athletes capable of ending the long, long search for an Olympic gold.

There is Yulo, who sent Philippine pride soaring two years ago when he won in the world gymnastics championship, the first by a Filipino athlete. Right now, he’s training in Japan under a well-known Japanese coach.

There’s Marcial, ranked among the Top 5 in the welterweight division. Since he turned pro last year, Marcial has trained under Hall of Famer Freddie Roach. He returned to Manila a few days ago, nearly five months after beating American Andrew Whitfield on points in his pro debut in Los Angeles.

And there’s Diaz, now ranked fifth in the world in her division and still looms as a big bet for a medal in Tokyo despite her poor showing in the Tashkent tournament.

Even as expectations keep rising for the Filipino Olympians, Tolentino is maintaining the prediction that he’s held for some time now.

“‘Pag ako ang tinanong, very conservative,” he said. “Minimum one. Minimum one is the best bet.”

A slew of other Pinoy athletes like golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan, skateboarder Margielyn Didal and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe are also expected to make it to the Tokyo-bound Philippine squad.