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First-time PHL Olympians seek to make an impact

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

EIGHTEEN of the 19 athletes who will represent the Philippines in the rescheduled Olympics this year are first-timers, and all are out to make an impact in one form or another in their initial foray in the Tokyo Games.

Among these athletes are rower Cris Nievarez, swimmers Remedy Rule and Luke Gebbie, and taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa.

The four are all excited to get their respective campaigns going in the Olympics, happening from July 23 to Aug. 8, just as they admit a tough road lies ahead for them.

Mr. Nievarez, 25, was one of the first athletes to book a spot in the quadrennial Games in the second wave of Filipino qualifiers along with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam.

He got his ticket to compete in the men’s single sculls in May after seeing action in the 2021 World Rowing Asia Oceania Continental Qualification Regatta in Tokyo.

The Quezon province native did not have a podium finish in the qualifiers but still got the nod after other events where he competed in were considered as well.

In the Olympics, aside from going as deep as possible in his event and contending for medals, important for Mr. Nievarez, too, is to showcase Philippine rowing on the world stage through his performance.

“One of my goals is for Philippine rowing to be highlighted in top-class international competitions like the Olympics, for our flag to be represented along with the best in the world,” said Mr. Nievarez in Filipino in his recent session on the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.

“I will try my best. I’m training hard, trying to improve so I can compete better,” he added.

Philippine rowing will be represented in the Olympics once again after two decades when Benjamin Tolentino competed in the men’s single sculls in 2000 in the Sydney Olympics.

Mr. Nievarez incidentally will be the first Filipino athlete to see action in Tokyo, beginning his campaign on July 23.

Swimmer Rule, meanwhile, is looking forward to pitting her skills against the best in the world in the 200m butterfly and freestyle events.

Ms. Rule earned a spot in the Olympics, along with Mr. Gebbie, by being awarded universality places by the International Swimming Federation.

She is currently in the wind-up of her preparation and is out to make a solid splash in her debut Olympic bid.

“I have done the bulk of the work. Now, it is about fine-tuning the mental game,” Ms. Rule shared to Tiebreaker Times’ Midlife Halftime, referring to where she is now in her training.

The Filipino-American swimmer went on to say that the Tokyo Olympics is a competition like no other she has experienced before, making her all the more motivated.

“I want to finish my races knowing I gave it my all, that I did my best, enjoyed racing at the pinnacle of my sport, and made my country proud. It’s time to have fun doing what I love in this Olympic dream that I have had for so long!” she said.

Competitive showing is also what national swimmer Gebbie is targeting just as he expressed hope that through their campaign in Tokyo, more Filipino swimmers will be inspired to dream big and go for it.

Filipino-Australian Gebbie will see action in the 100m and 50m freestyle events.

Taekwondo’s Barbosa, for his part, is savoring the journey of becoming the first Filipino male taekwondo jin to play in the Olympics since Tshomlee Go in 2008 in Beijing.

He shared that while he is happy to qualify for the Olympics, the campaign does not stop in qualification and that now he needs to prove that he belongs to compete against the top players in the world.

Mr. Barbosa, who competed for National University, started doing taekwondo at an early age and is proud to have reached the standing where he is now in the sport.

“It is such an honor to represent our beloved country, we will continue bringing pride on our flag,” he wrote on a Facebook post.

Mr. Barbosa will be competing in the men’s -59 kg division.

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