LED BY 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalists and Olympic hopefuls Melcah Jen Caballero and Joanie del Gaco, Filipino rowers came through with solid performances in the finals of the online world rowing indoor championships over the weekend.
A double SEA Games gold medalist, Caballero showed her world-class mettle, finishing a strong fourth in the women’s lightweight 500-meter race in one minute and 38.6 seconds.
She was narrowly beaten to third by Algerian Rouba Amina, a veteran of the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics who clocked 1:38.1 behind Briton Anna Hughes-Davis (1:36.6) and Tunisian Krimi Khadija (1:37.3), who finished first and second, respectively.
Philippine Rowing Association secretary general Jercyl Lerin noted that “Caballero was the only Asian in the top five of her event and the best among the two rowers from Asia in the top 10.”
Del Gaco, who teamed up with Caballero to rule the women’s lightweight double sculls in the last SEA Games, also fared well in the women’s under-23 500-meter race, finishing No. 10 in 1:40.9, while former national rower Mireille Qua was No. 13 (1:42.8) out of 20 entries in the event.
Likewise making their presence felt in the women’s lightweight under-23 500-meter race were Ateneo rowing squad members Alyssa Go, Wylene Lu and Kyra Louise Sandejas, who finished sixth, eighth and ninth with times of 1:46.0, 1:48.8 and 1:49.0, respectively.
Rounding out the outing of the national rowers was Joachim de Jesus, who placed eighth in the men’s lightweight under-23 500-meter contest with a time of 1:30.5.
Lerin said the performances of Caballero and Del Gaco bode well for their forthcoming stint in the lightweight double sculls of the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifying regatta from May 5 to 7 at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo, Japan, which will be the actual competition site for the Tokyo Games in July.
“Although their performances were done on rowing machines, this is a good indication of Melcah and Joanie’s (Olympic qualifying) chances in the women’s lightweight double sculls,” she said. “They were fourth in the 2019 Asia rowing championships at malakas na sila noon. Mas malaki pa ang improvement nila ngayon.”
Lerin said they are awaiting word from the World Rowing Federation by March 8 on whether the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifying regatta will proceed as scheduled. The top three finishers in each event will earn tickets to Tokyo.
“If the Asian Olympic qualifiers don’t push through then we might want to participate in the final Olympic qualification regatta set May 16 to 18 in Lucerne, Switzerland,” Lerin said, adding they might also send three male rowers to the Asian meet.
“We also would like to see action in the men’s lightweight single and double sculls by sending Cris Nievarez, Roque Abala Jr and Soriel Sumintac,” she said.
Nieverez ruled the men’s lightweight sculls in the last SEA Games while Abala paired off with Edgar Ilas to win the bronze medal in the men’s lightweight double sculls.