National athletes set to return to training

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    THE Philippine Sports Commission hopes to bring the country’s Olympic qualifiers and aspirants in taekwondo, boxing and karate to its bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna this Saturday so they can resume their actual training after more nearly 10 months of inactivity due to the pandemic.

    “The boxers, karatekas and taekwondo jins will go into the training bubble at the Inspire Academy,” said Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, who was tasked by PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez to oversee the undertaking with Philippine Sports Institute national training director Marc Velasco.

    “They will be inside the bubble for around three months after undergoing the usual pre-testing for COVID-19. We are looking at around 50 athletes and coaches in all,” Fernandez said.

    Last month, Ramirez stressed the training bubble for the Olympic hopefuls would be “stricter than the PBA” in the event he would give the go-signal for the national athletes to resume actual workouts.

    Fernandez said they were scheduled to discuss the issue during the PSC’s first board meeting yesterday afternoon.

    Karate Pilipinas Sports Foundation Inc. president Ricky Lim said they are planning to have four athletes and two coaches in the bubble, including 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Jamie Christine Lim and bronze medalist Joane Orbon, who is still in the United States.

    “We are also waiting for the working permit from the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) of our national coach Okay Arpa so he could travel back from Turkey, while Orbon is also having problems because of the pandemic situation in the US,” Lim disclosed.

    Aside from Lim, also expected to join the bubble are SEA Games bronze medalists Christopher Ivan Agustin and Sharief Afif while Fil-Japanese Junna Tsukii, who also won a SEA Games gold, will continue to train in Tokyo.

    “The four karatekas will be acting as their own sparring partners,” Lim said.

    Taekwondo secretary general Rocky Samson said they will have six athletes and two coaches in the bubble, led by SEA Games gold medalists Samuel Morrison and Pauline Louise Lopez, who is also in the US and facing the same predicament as Orbon.

    Also expected to join the bubble are Rio Olympic veteran Kirstie Elaine Allora, who is eyeing a return trip to the Olympics; SEA Games men’s finweight champion Kurt Ryan Barbosa and men’s featherweight silver medalist Arven Alcantara, according to Samson.

    “National training director Dindo Simpao plus another coach will be with them inside the training bubble,” he said.

    Samson said the taekwondo jins needed to get back in competitive shape in time for the Asian Olympic taekwondo qualifiers scheduled in Amman, Jordan in the third week of March.

    Boxing secretary general Ed Picson said that they submitted a list of 20 boxers, including Olympic qualifier Irish Magno, and six coaches to the PSC.