DUE to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Philippine Sports Commission will allow Olympic hopefuls to be at the site of their respective qualifiers no less than two weeks before the start of the competitions.
PSC national training director Marc Velasco announced the decision of the PSC board yesterday during a press conference together with Mariano Araneta Jr., the chief of mission of the national Olympic contingent, and Philippine Olympic Committee secretary general Atty. Edwin Gastanes.
“We had a close call with the national boxing team so the board decided on this matter so our athletes could undergo proper quarantine procedures and do not get disqualified,” said Velasco, referring to the boxers currently competing in the Asia-Oceania qualifiers in Amman, Jordan.
While it would mean additional expense for the government sports agency, he pointed out this was done by the board led by PSC chairman Butch Ramirez “to give our national athletes the best possible chance of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.”
Araneta said there are still 64 athletes from 19 sports disciplines who are in the hunt for tickets to the Tokyo Games set July 24 to Aug. 9.
Araneta said “we are taking our cue from the International Olympic Committee, which has said the Games will proceed as scheduled.
“So everything (about the country’s Olympic preparations) is still a go.”
Among those whose Olympic qualifying campaign has been affected is weightlifter and Rio Olympic silver medalist Hidylin Diaz, who is currently training in Malaysia.
“Hidylin is supposed to compete in the Asian championships next month in Tashkent, Uzbekistan but that was postponed,” Velasco said. “She just needs a few more ranking tournaments to formalize her qualifying for Tokyo.
“We are now looking for alternative competitions for her to do that, possibly in Cali, Colombia.”
Araneta rued the fact that the virus has disrupted a lot of Olympic qualifiers, including the World 3×3 basketball qualification in Bangalore, India this month where the Philippines is set to compete.
He said the Asian skateboarding championships in Singapore, an Olympic qualifying event, has been reset to next week instead of early this month because of the virus scare.
Among those seeing action for the country in the event is Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Margielyn Arda Didal, who is keen on maintaining her top ranking in the world ratings to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
Araneta said that despite the challenges, he expects more Filipinos joining pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Eumir Felix Marcial as the country’s standard-bearers in Tokyo.