Rowers chase dream

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Rowers chase dream
Cris Nievarez.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines —  It’s sink or stay afloat for four Philippine rowers vying for Paris tickets at the World Rowing Olympic Asia-Oceania Continental Qualifier on Tangeum Lake, Chungju, South Korea starting today. The regatta ends on Sunday.

Cris Nievarez, 24, will attempt to claim one of five passes available among 17 contenders in men’s open single sculls while Joanie Delgaco, 26, will try to clinch one of five slots on the line among 15 hopefuls in women’s open sculls. In men’s lightweight double sculls, Rynjie Penaredondo, 20 and Zuriel Sumintac, 28, will row for one of two tickets among 10 pairs.

Nievarez, who reached the single sculls semifinals in the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, said this is the Philippines’ last chance to catch the boat to Paris. There will be a final Olympic qualifier in Lucerne, Switzerland, on May 19-21 but Nievarez said only two slots will be up for grabs in men’s and women’s single sculls so it’s a long shot.

Nievarez said unlike in Tokyo, Uzbek coach Shukrat Ganiev will be a guiding light in Chungju. Ganiev, 63, was with Nievarez only for a day to check his boat in the last Olympics but couldn’t attend the competitions after testing positive for COVID and undergoing confinement in isolation. Nievarez said Ganiev’s presence will be a big boost along with coach Ed Maerina. Delgaco was the only Southeast Asian to enter the Asian Games women’s single sculls final in Hangzhou last year, finishing fifth of six. If she places fifth in Chungju, Delgaco will make the Olympic cut.

“We have a good chance of qualifying for the men’s and women’s single sculls,” said Philippine Rowing Association president Patrick Gregorio. “Qualifying for Paris will really come down to a matter of seconds. Our pair in men’s lightweight double sculls is composed of a veteran, Sumintac, and a U23 athlete, Penaredondo. They’ve shown a promising performance in the past few months and hope to bring great results in the coming days.”

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