The country’s top sports officials are pulling out all the stops to take advantage of what is generally seen as the country’s best chance to end its Olympic gold medal drought.
On the heels of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) announcement of a bubble training camp in Laguna province for Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) said on Wednesday that it was planning to send qualified athletes to Tokyo early.
“It will be better if our athletes settle there early if the budget permits,’’ POC president Abraham Tolentino said. “They will be able to acclimatize before the Games and get used to their surroundings.’’
The Philippines currently has four Olympians for Tokyo, and their credentials speak highly of their chances for a gold medal: World champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, top middleweight boxer Eumir Marcial, female boxer Irish Magno and pole vaulter EJ Obiena, who has been holding his own against the world’s elite of his sport. Also certain of qualifying are Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and Asian skateboard champion Margielyn Didal.
The PSC is sending an advanced team to Tokyo to scout the area for hotels and gyms, among others, before bringing in the athletes six weeks prior to the July 23 to Aug. 8 Olympics.
“But we should also strictly follow the health and safety protocols required of our athletes,’’ said Tolentino, the president of the country’s cycling federation.
While Obiena, Magno and Marcial are expected to set up camp in Tokyo as early as the second week of June, Yulo has already taken up residence in Tokyo right after winning two gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games last year.
“Our qualifiers should be there six weeks before to acclimatize and get familiar not only with the weather, but for them to adapt to the normal environment in the Olympics,’’ PSC Chair William Ramirez said.
Apart from the four Olympic qualifiers, a total of 83 athletes from 19 sports are waiting for their respective qualification meets scheduled to kick off early next year.
The PSC recently announced it was opening a training bubble for Olympic-bound and aspiring Olympic athletes in the next two weeks at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
The government sports agency will first accommodate boxing, taekwondo and karate, three sports that possess big chances of sending qualifiers to the Tokyo Summer Games.
“We don’t have the cutting-edge technology for the preparation of our athletes, but the government is really highly supportive of these athletes,’’ Ramirez said.
Both Tolentino and Ramirez agreed that next year’s Olympics is the best opportunity for Team Philippines to bring home its first-ever Olympic gold medal. INQ
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