Qualifying for Tokyo dims due to coronavirus

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    WITH the Asian Indoor and World Indoor track and field championships scrapped due to the coronavirus epidemic in China, the Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association has urged members of the national athletic squad based in the United States to look for meets there where they can compete and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games set in Tokyo, Japan in July.

    “Due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, both the Asian indoor and world indoor track meets that were to be held in Chinese cities have been scrapped and rescheduled. So we have asked our US-based national athletes to look for competitions there where they can qualify for the Olympics,” national training director Renato Unso told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.

    The Asian Indoors are supposed to held on Feb. 12 to 14 in Hangzhou while the world indoor meet is scheduled March to 13 in Nanjing, site of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, with both events serving as Olympic qualifiers.

    But the Asian Athletic Association and World Athletics, formerly known as the International Association of Athletic Federations, have decided to cancel the competitions in the Chinese cities for the health and safety of their athletes.

    Among those still aiming to qualify for the Tokyo Games are Rio Olympic and five-time Southeast Asian Games 400-meter hurdles champion Eric Shawn Cray, sprinter Kristina Knott, pole vaulter Natalie Uy, and shot-putter William Morrison III, who all won gold medals in the last 30th Southeast Asian Games.

    Among them, Knott, 24, appears to have the inside track, having ruled the women’s 200-meter dash in a new SEA Games record o 23.01 seconds, a shade off of the qualifying mark of 22.80 seconds.

    The former University of Miami varsity star, who also won a mint in the 4×100-meter mixed relay in the SEA Games, is keen on competing for the Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics and was set to compete in the Asian indoor trackfest next week until it was cancelled.

    A double SEA Games gold medalist just like Knott, Cray, who is based in San Antonio, Texas, is bidding for a back-to-back appearance in the quadrennial games.

    But he faces a daunting task, considering that the Olympic qualifying time is 48.90 seconds, nearly a second faster than the 50.21 clocking he set in retaining his 400-meter hurdles title at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas, Tarlac last December.

    “That’s about 10 meters to make up for to make the (Olympic qualifying) cut,” noted Unso, a former national athlete and hurdler.

    Cray’s best time in event is 49.57 seconds, set when he clinched the gold in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.

    Uy topped the SEA Games women’s pole vault in a record-breaking height of 4.25 meters, but it is still 35 centimeters (13.7795 inches) from the qualifying mark of 4.70 meters. Her personal best is 4.30 meters.

    A native of Bloomington, Indiana, Morrison, 21, made his SEA Games debut for the country with a record heave of 18.38 meters, more than two meters short of the Olympic cut of 21.10 meters.

    All four athletes are aiming to join pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, the country’s first Olympic qualifier, to the Tokyo Games.