PHILIPPINE Olympic Committee president Rep. Bambol Tolentino yesterday said he is eyeing three main goals in ushering in his new four-year term as the head of the country’s Olympic body.
“We hope to win our first gold in the Tokyo Olympic Games, place third in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games, and hopefully lay the groundwork for a permanent POC building,” Tolentino said in the inaugural online session of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum for 2021.
Tolentino, who was reelected last Nov. 27, said he would also work hard to secure vaccines for the national athletes, especially those who will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in July, as well as those who will see action in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games in November.
During the forum backed by San Miguel Corp., Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Smart, Go for Gold, Amelie Hotel, Milo and Brasca Restaurant, Tolentino took time to elaborate on his dream of having a POC building.
“Not to take anything away from our predecessors but for the last 110 years we have not had a POC building so we aspire during our term to have one,” he said, citing the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex grounds as one of possible sites for the edifice.
The Tagaytay congressman pointed out that the present POC headquarters within the PhilSports Complex in Pasig City is not owned by the POC “so puwede kaming paalisin any time doon.”
He said he would solicit the help of Sen. Bong Go, chairman of the Senate sports committee, in looking for a place at the CCP complex where the POC building can stand, adding that “it should be presentable, may dating.
“We hope that the national government and Sen. Bong Go can help us find the land and the POC will take care of its construction. If the government can lease out property to commercial establishments at the CCP complex grounds we see no reason why it cannot grant our request,” he said.
Despite the continuing threat of the pandemic, Tolentino remained bullish about the country ending its nearly century-old gold medal drought in the Summer Games, which has been rescheduled this year due to the virus crisis.
He noted that pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo, boxer Felix Eumir Marcial, who have all qualified for the meet; and weightlifter Hidylin Diaz, a 2016 Rio Olympic Games veteran, are all capable of delivering a gold medal.
All four are training overseas, with Diaz, a bronze medalist in the 2019 world weightlifting championships in Pattaya, Thailand, needing just one more overseas tournament sanctioned by the International Weightlifting Federation to formalize her trip to Tokyo.
“We have gold medal prospects also in skateboarder Margielyn Didal and golfer Yuka Saso plus so many others as well,” Tolentino said, referring to prospects in taekwondo and karate who are all bidding to make it to the Olympics through qualifiers in their respective sports before June.
Tolentino said the POC has enough funds to secure a vaccine for the national Olympic delegation, although he believed this would be shouldered by PSC as part of its support for the Tokyo-bound contingent.
With some of the Olympic aspirants in taekwondo, karate and boxing set to resume actual training at the Inspire Academy, Laguna this weekend, he said his next concern is to bring back to the gym the rest of the national athletes gearing up for the Vietnam Games.
“It’s a reality that we have been left behind pero hindi pa huli,” said Tolentino, who intends to have the athletes resuming actual workouts by the second quarter of the year so they can be competitive in the regional meet scheduled in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
“We want at least to finish third overall in Vietnam,” Tolentino said.
In the 2019 edition of the games, the country recaptured the overall crown, with the hometown bets harvesting 149 gold, 113 silver and 121 bronze medals.
Once the vaccine is available in the country, he said all the national athletes need to be vaccinated to enable them to travel freely and without fear to their respective overseas competitions since this would serve as their virtual “travel pass” to the sites of these events.
Tolentino said he and possibly other POC leaders would set an example by getting the COVID-19 vaccine to allay the fears of some national athletes about being jabbed.
Without being vaccinated, he bared his ordeal of being swabbed “five times in two weeks” when he attended the recent Olympic Council of Asia general assembly meeting in Muscat, Oman, “which is an experience that our athletes would not undergo if they were given the vaccine.