49 Pinoy athletes eye Olympic slots

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    A TOTAL of 49 athletes in 15 sports so far are gunning for berths in the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled July 29 to Aug. 14 in Tokyo, Japan.

    These were the numbers gathered yesterday by football chief Mariano Araneta Jr., the national team chief of mission, during a meeting with representatives of National Sports Associations whose athletes are set to compete in Olympic qualifiers beginning next month.

    Joining Araneta during the meeting at the Olympic team secretariat office at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex administration building were Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez and POC secretary general Atty. Edwin Gastanes.

    Also present was a representative of the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp., which will release the P100 million that President Duterte promised last month for the country’s preparation and participation in the quadrennial sports showcase.

    Ramirez told NSA officials they need to submit the competition schedule and program of their Olympic hopefuls by tomorrow before any money would be released.

    Araneta said they would require the NSAs for periodic updates and reports on the status of their athletes immediately after their Olympic qualifiers, which will also be forwarded to the PSC.

    “This way we will be able to track the progress of these athletes,” he noted.

    Ramirez said the government sports agency will closely monitor the Olympic hopefuls “because we want to make sure they are competing in their respective qualifiers based on their reports to their NSAs.”

    The Olympic hopefuls are bidding to join pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo, the country’s first two qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics.

    “In athletics we have at least four more, aquatics or swimming, 2; the men’s basketball 3×3 squad, boxing has 11 hopefuls, golf has two, judo also has two, cycling has three in downhill and cross country racing, rowing four, table tennis has one, canoe-kayak, three, and karate six,” Araneta said.

    Also bidding to qualify athletes for the Tokyo Games are triathlon and archery but were not represented during the meeting.

    Based on the assessment of NSA officials present in the meeting “we have about 38 athletes who have strong chances of making the cut to Tokyo,” according to Araneta.

    To enhance the medal prospects of the Philippine Olympic team once it is formed, Ramirez wants to quarter the athletes a month before the meet starts in the Japanese capital “so our athletes we will have sufficient time to adjust to the conditions there.”

    Ramirez added that he intends to join Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Bambol

    Tolentino when he makes an ocular inspection of the Olympic venues in Tokyo in late March to scout for the location of the pre-Olympic quarters of the Pinoy athletes.

    The Philippines is bidding to end a 96-year-old gold-medal drought in the Olympics since Pinoy campaigners made their debut in the event during the 1924 Paris Games.

    The Filipinos’ best performance in the Olympic has been a silver medal, the latest courtesy of weightlifter Hidylin Diaz, who placed second in the women’s 55-kilogram division at the Rio Games four years ago.

    The others silver medals were won by boxers Anthony Villanueva and Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, who accomplished these feats in the 1964 Tokyo and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, respectively.