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Sports

Who’s next, what’s next for Team Philippines?

Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

TOKYO – The morning after the historic moment in the weightlifting arena, there’s an inescapable feeling that the golden breakthrough could open the floodgates for a steady stream of Olympic victories moving forward.

The gnawing challenge and pressure of winning

the first Olympic gold has burst in the air, and the remaining men and women in the compact but fighting Philippine contingent are raring to come out and follow the trail blazed by star weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.

All four Filipino boxers are in the hunt, gymnast Caloy Yulo is to vie in vault final, pole-vaulter EJ Obiena is determined to soar into Olympic glory and golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvi Pagunsan are tipped to be there in the thick of the fight once the opening drive is banged away at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Bambol Tolentino, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez, chef-de-mission Nonong Mariano and the other members of Team Philippines are looking forward to more glorious moments from Filipino athletes in the remaining days of the Tokyo Games.

Golden breakthrough is done.

Next target is a multi-medal harvest, a feat no Philippine Olympic delegation has achieved since high jumper Simeon Toribio, swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso and boxer Jose Villanueva each pocketed a bronze medal in the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.

But as it is, Team Philippines is assured now of a best showing in its almost a century of participation in the Olympiad starting in 1924 in Paris.

“Hindi pa tapos ang laban, meron pa tayong events,” said Tolentino, confident of a multi-medal showing even before leaving Manila.

The newly-minted Filipina Olympic champ encourages her teammates to go for it and courageously fight for flag and country.

“Sa lahat ng Olympians, eto na, may gold na. Laban lang, kaya ninyo yan. Para sa Pilipinas, huwag mag-doubt, believe that you have the power and strength, and be proud as Pinoy,” said Diaz.

Among the remaining Filipino athletes here, female boxer Nesthy Petecio is the closest to a medal feat.

The 29-year-old Davao City fighter, with swashbuckling showings in the first two rounds, goes for a sure bronze medal in her 11 a.m. (10 a.m. in Manila) face-off with Colombia’s Marcela Castaneda today.

Meanwhile, middleweight second seed Eumir Marcial makes his much-awaited Olympic debut against Algeria’s Younes Nemouchi tomorrow in the same card where Irish Magno meets Thai Jutamas Jitpong in an expected slam-bang flyweight tiff.

Marcial and Magno eye spots in the Final Eight.

The Philippine boxing team is 4-of-4 so far in the Tokyo Games, with Petecio, Magno and Carlo Paalam all getting to an explosive start. Petecio then progressed to the quarterfinals after beating Taiwanese top seed Lin Yu-ting in their thrilling Round-of-16 fight Monday.

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