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Eleven Filipinos qualified to Paris. Former world champion Carlos Edriel Yulo is one. He is joined by Aleah Finnegan who ended seven-decade drought for a Filipino qualifier and Levi Jung-Ruivivar who racked in enough points to qualify. Why only two women qualify from a country known for grace and poise characteristic in gymnastics is no wonder. They are in pageantry.

Thankfully, there are also a few women of physical strength. They even outnumber the men. Boxing has two women. Aira Villegas debuts. No, she is not throwing a party on borrowed money. It’s her first time. Nesthy Petecio tries to turn her Tokyo silver into gold. And one man. Eumir Marcial dusts off the rust of his bronze medal to make it silvery, or golden probably. One of them should at least medal, any color will do, provided it is gold. Boxing has always been a rich source of poor boxers.

Weighlifting has two women. Elreen Ando and Vanessa Sarno. And a man. John Ceniza. Just like the boxers, they reaffirm nagging reality athletic glory is found in weight category, not in disparity. Rower Joanie Delgaco floated to history even before Paris. She is the country’s first female rower to qualify. Ever. But why an archipelago lack for rowers is a curious case. They must be scared to row their boat in the face of a bow and arrow. Otherwise known as water cannons.

A female fencer likewise qualified. Former collegiate standout Samantha Catantan filled in the heartbreaking void left by heartbroken Maxine Esteban who qualified under the Ivory Coast flag. But this should not vindicate her unceremonious exit from the national team. Why drop one and welcome another when we can keep both. Increase chances of winning, although it does not make a difference in lottery.

Among the magnificent eleven, 6-meter club member EJ Obiena is the brightest hope for a medal. At least on paper. The native of Tondo is currently ranked world number two, with a world silver and bronze and golds in other international tournaments.

Yulo too. The diminutive world champion is the physical evidence a short race is better suited to sports where height is not might. But despite damning evidence, Filipinos falsely hope for basketball supremacy. But maybe it is not really about supremacy, it is more about ecstasy. Basketball makes Filipinos happy. Simple. No one argues with passion, much less dictate reason for celebration. Happiness is personal, although many share it on the platform for people starving for attention.

But hopefully the other qualifiers not expected to deliver may pull a surprise. Winning or losing is unpredictable, especially in the ultimate sports spectacle. Or debacle. Should the unexpected win, it is not necessarily a fluke. They worked the hardest just to qualify for equal chance in uneven disciplines. A medal of any color they bring home is not a miracle. It is a product of sacrifice. Winning does not even end their agony. Sometimes they even have to beg for their prize money.

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CARLOS EDRIEL YULO

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