Top Six eyed by young Olympic rowing debutant
Cris Nievarez trains at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Top Six eyed by young Olympic rowing debutant

Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Rower Cris Nievarez sets in motion Team Philippines’ quest in the Tokyo Olympics as he plunges into action in the heats of single sculls Friday morning, ahead of the opening ceremony at the Japan National Stadium.

As the lead Phl participant, Nievarez eyes a decent, fighting showing to somehow provide inspiration and momentum to the other Philippine bets.

“Target ko Top Six,” Nievarez has said.

Ranged against heavyweights from Europe and Oceania, Nievarez faces a daunting task in his discipline where only two Filipinos before him had made it to the quadrennial games.

Nonetheless, the 21-year-old Atimonan, Quezon pride brims with excitement and enthusiasm in his return to the Sea Forest Waterway where he booked his Olympic entry during the World Rowing Asia Oceania Continental Qualification Regatta.

Then add the arrival of Uzbek coach Shuhrat Ganiev in Tokyo Saturday night.

Ganiev and Filipino coach Edgardo Maerina were with Nievarez in his first training in the competition venue yesterday.

“Cris was limited to virtual training with coach Ganiev until today. Physically, magkakasama na sila ngayon,” said Phl rowing primary team leader Magnum Membrere of Nievarez and his two coaches who are quartered in the Olympic Village.

“Cris is all good and focused. He’s enthusiastic because he prepared hard for this Olympics,” said Membrere.

But realistically, Nievarez is a long shot for a podium finish.

“Cris is 6-1 and he’s facing rivals who are 6-6, 6-7 or taller. Honestly, mahirap ang laban. But Cris is still very young, magma-mature pa at made-develop. In rowing, may mga nagme-medal in their late 30s. May mga nagme-medal pa nga in their 40s,” said Membrere.

“He is a very young Olympian at 21. I observed that the life cycle of an Olympic rower peaks when they reach 30 plus years,” said rowing president Patrick Gregorio of Nievarez. “Long way to go for Cris but the journey starts in Tokyo.”

Rowing has been held in the Olympics since 1900, just missing the first edition of the Games in 1896 with bad weather forcing the cancellation of all rowing events then.

In Tokyo, Nievarez will be in a strong 32-man field vying in the heats on Friday.

The top three from each heat automatically advance to the quarterfinals while the rest are relegated to the Repechage.

Membrere is hoping for a good draw as he attends the managers meeting Wednesday. – report from Joey Villar

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