TOKYO— For Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William Ramirez, three times could be a charm.
Ramirez owns the distinction as the only chairman since the PSC’s establishment in 1990 to be at the helm of the sports agency in three Olympics — his first Beijing 2008, followed by Rio de Janeiro 2016, and now, Tokyo 2020+1.
“I always say, Olympic success is more than just a year of preparation,” said Ramirez two days before he and Chief of Staff Marc Velasco fly to Tokyo aboard Philippine Airlines on Thursday.
“For some, it took three cycles. Experience is good leverage,”Ramirez added.
Ramirez’s Olympic journey matches weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz’s Games sortie.
Then 18 years old, Diaz made her Olympic debut in Beijing as a wild card in women’s 58 kg class. So young and so innocent on the Olympic stage then, she didn’t make the podium, nor get close to it, but the prize of Zamboanga City reaped the experience she needed.
London 2012 wasn’t Diaz’s time then but came 2016 in Rio and she brought home a silver medal.
“I have the privilege of seeing Hidilyn grow from grassroots to Olympic medalist,” Ramirez said.
Diaz and 18 other Filipinos are competing in 11 sports in Tokyo and Ramirez believes all of them have the potential to win the country’s first Olympic gold medal– or perhaps even more.
“This batch is strong. Not to discount previous batches kasi lagi ko sinasabi making it to the Olympics is a medal in itself, it is just that this delegation presents us a strong chance for a golden break” Ramirez explained.
Ramirez recalled how he felt when Diaz landed that silver in Rio, ending a six Olympic cycle drought since Atlanta 2016 when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won a men’s flyweight gold medal in boxing.
“Everyone was ecstatic syempre. Dinala ko siya kay Presidente at ang napakalinaw na bilin na tandang tanda ko – Butch alagaan mo ang mga bata” Ramirez said.
Meanwhile, all but the country’s bets in athletics and golf have already entered the Olympic Village as of Tuesday, a good three full days before the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
“Everyone who’s here are already training in their respective training venues,” said Team Philippines Chef de Mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, adding early-day hitches are being addressed by the organizers, including the distribution and administration of the daily virus tests for the athletes.
“Team Hidilyn (Diaz) is already training, as well as the boxing team,” Araneta said. “There are challenges in bringing the athletes to their training venues, but they are all under control.”
Athletes and delegation members have to follow an activity plan in getting from one venue to another, one of the dozens of protocols to guarantee the safety and health of everyone participating in the Olympics.
US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso, according to Araneta, is already in town but prefers to stay in a hotel closer to the golf venue.
“Yuka arrived on Monday and she is staying at the Okura Hotel with his father-coach Masakazu, as well as his coaching team,” Araneta said.
The Kasumigaseki Country Club, which is hosting both the men and women competitions, is a good 70 kms—an over an hour drive from the Olympic Village—prompting Saso’s team to relocate to a hotel.
Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan will also stay at separate hotels near the venue.
There are 60 golfers from at least 36 nations competing in Olympic golf.
The men’s contest is set from July 29 to August 2 and the women will follow suit from August 4 to 7.
Mariano also bared that boxer Irish Magno hurt her right ankle while jumping rope on Monday, but thanks to coach Nolito “Boy” Velasco, the injury was immediately contained.
“Nilagyan ko kaagad ng yelo at ‘nung tinignan ni Doc Randy (Molo, team doctor). ok na siya,” Velasco said.
Mariano said pole vaulter EJ Obiena is due at the village at noon on Friday, while runner Kristina Knott is staying in a hotel in Nagasaki where the athletics training venue is located.