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World champs boost Pinoy hopes in Tokyo
Mariano (Nonong) Araneta
STAR/File

World champs boost Pinoy hopes in Tokyo

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 21, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine delegation chef-de-mission Mariano (Nonong) Araneta said the other day the Tokyo Olympics offer the best chance for the country to mark a golden breakthrough, citing two world champions among the seven Filipino qualifiers so far. The presumption is the Olympics will push through with Japan pulling out all the stops to make the Games happen despite the alarm of rising COVID-19 cases in several countries.

Araneta, also the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president, singled out gymnast Caloy Yulo and boxer Nesthy Petecio as world champions with the opportunity to capture the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal in 21 appearances since 1924. Yulo, 21, took the gold medal in floor at the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2019 while Petecio, 29, topped the women’s featherweight division at the AIBA World Championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia, that same year. Araneta added that other gold prospects are 2019 AIBA World Championships middleweight silver medalist Eumir Marcial and 2016 Olympic women’s weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz. That’s not to rule out the possibility of other Olympic qualifiers E. J. Obiena (pole vault) and boxers Irish Magno and Carlo Paalam landing a podium finish.

Never in the Philippines’ history of participating in the Olympics has the country been bannered by world champions and in Tokyo, Araneta noted it will be the first. Over the last five Olympics, the Philippines has sent an average of 15 athletes participating in an average of 7.8 sports. The only medal the Philippines brought home in those five Olympics was Diaz’ silver in Rio de Janeiro. The Philippines was without a medal in 13 Olympics and is second in the world in the category of countries with the most Olympic medals but no gold. The Philippines has collected no gold, three silvers and seven bronzes for a total of 10 medals. Malaysia is No. 1 with 11 medals and no gold.

There are several Olympic qualifiers where more Filipinos could make it to Tokyo. Triathlon is scheduled in Hatsukaichi, Japan, on April 24-25, rowing in Tokyo on May 5-7, taekwondo in Amman on May 14-15, 3x3 basketball in Graz, Austria, on May 26-30, surfing in El Salvador on May 29-June 6, karate in Paris on June 11-13 and 5x5 basketball in Belgrade on June 29-July 4. On the cusp of qualification are skateboarder Margie Didal, judo’s Kiyomi Watanabe, golf’s Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan, and Eric Cray and Kristina Knott of athletics. The target is for the Philippines to qualify 15 to 20 athletes.

Araneta said while the IOC is not requiring vaccination to go to Tokyo, the POC will arrange for all athletes and officials to be inoculated. Araneta said the POC delegation will number about 10 to include POC president Rep. Bambol Tolentino, secretary-general Atty. Edwin Gastanes, the chef de mission, team doctor, nutritionist and other support staff. “For team officials, we’re still waiting for approval from the Organizing Committee how many they can accommodate per qualified sport discipline,” said Araneta. “Athletics is asking for at least one coach per athlete. Hidilyn has her own coaching team which is at least two. For boxers, they will probably have three or four coaches. For gymnastics, Caloy has one coach. For the other sports, they will have a maximum of two coaches per team.”

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