By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
TEAM Philippines’ preparation for the rescheduled Olympic Games this year continues despite the uncertainties clouding the staging of the sporting spectacle.
Mariano Araneta, the country’s chef de mission to the Tokyo Olympics, said that while training of the Filipino athletes has hit speed bumps because of the prevailing conditions with the pandemic, they still remain committed to their push in the Games and do well.
Currently the Philippines has four athletes — EJ Obiena (pole vault), Caloy Yulo (gymnastics), and Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno (boxing) — who have qualified for the Olympics, but others are expected to join them.
“Right now, we have four who are already qualified and we expect that number to rise as we have athletes who are on the verge of qualifying,” said Mr. Araneta on the Power & Play with Noli Eala program last Saturday.
“Golf has two in [Yuka] Saso and Bianca [Pagdanganan]. Hidilyn Diaz in weightlifting is almost assured of a spot. Marge Didal in skateboarding has a good chance of qualifying. In judo, we have [Kiyomi] Watanabe. Then, there is boxing with Nesthy Petecio and Rogen Ladon and others,” he added. Mr. Araneta, who is president of the Philippine Football Federation, shared that training of the athletes especially those abroad like Messrs. Obiena (Italy), Yulo (Japan), and Marcial (United States) continues without disruption.
But he admitted those left here are finding it challenging since some of the foreign coaches cannot come over because of travel restrictions among other concerns.
National teams have also gone the “bubble” way for their training with those from boxing, taekwondo and karate at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna while the fencing team is training in Ormoc, Leyte.
Mr. Araneta said other national teams and federations have also made known their desire to start training as well.
OLYMPICS A GO… FOR NOW
The Philippine CDM also shared that as of now, the Olympics will push through.
“As of now, the Olympics will go on. In fact, we will have an online briefing on Tuesday. All of the CDMs will be part of the briefing with the organizers,” he said.
“They (organizers) have come up with a playbook for the officers, which is a guide for what needs to be done and we expect to get further information in the briefing,” he added.
Mr. Araneta went on to say that for now, nothing has changed yet as far as the number of sports and participants in the Tokyo Olympics.
They, however, are expecting the Games to be conducted in a different way.
“In the past, athletes were allowed to train in the venues in the lead-up to acclimatize themselves. We don’t see that happening much. How the athletes will be shuttled will be a challenge and there will be limited spectators,” said Mr. Araneta of the things they expect come the Olympics.
As the Filipino athletes continue to prepare, Mr. Araneta assured that they will continue to support Team Philippines as they represent the country.
“Let’s pray for our athletes. Hopefully, there won’t be any setbacks like injuries or COVID 19 cases. We’re completely behind them.”