An official is seen amid preparations before the start of the morning session of an athletics test event at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on May 9, 2021. Kristina Knott and Eric Cray are the Philippines’ best hope of reaching the Tokyo Games in track and field. Issei Kato, Reuters

As the Olympic qualifying window slowly closes, Philippine contingent chef de mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta Jr. is still confident that the number of Tokyo-bound athletes will surpass the 13 standard-bearers who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“We still have a good number of athletes who can make it to Tokyo through their respective qualifiers. We just might surpass the 13 campaigners who saw action in Rio,” Araneta, who has been closely monitoring the hopefuls still in the running to make the quadrennial global sports gala, said last Friday.

There were 13 Pinoy bets that saw action in the carnival city of Rio de Janeiro 5 years ago, with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz ending a 20-year-old medal dry spell in the meet in hoisting the silver medal in the women’s 55-kilogram division.  

Araneta, also the Philippine Football Federation president, gave the interview shortly after an online meeting with a key staff of the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee regarding the number of possible athletes the country would send to the greatest sports show on earth.

In all, there are 41 athletes in 13 sports still in the hunt for Olympic slots, Araneta added.

A total 8 Filipinos have so far punched tickets to the Tokyo Summer Games, which hopefully will finally unfold in July after it was rescheduled a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest to qualify is 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Cris Nievarez, who joined the distinguished group after placing ninth overall in the men’s singles sculls of the World Rowing Asia-Oceania Olympic qualification regatta held in the Japanese capital the other week.

Nievarez is the latest rower to represent the country in the Summer Games since Benjie Tolentino took part in the men’s singles sculls in the 2000 edition in Sydney, Australia.

He joined Diaz, pole-vaulter Ernest John Obiena, gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo, and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial, Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio and Irish Magno in the competition set July 23 to August 9 in the Japanese capital.

“We still a lot of hopefuls in taekwondo, karate, judo, skateboarding, BMX golf and surfing, among others, who are set to compete in their respective qualifiers,” Araneta noted.

BMX, taekwondo, surfing, taekwondo, 3×3 basket hopefuls vie in May

Among those poised to see action in their respective Olympic qualifiers within the month are rider Patrick Been Coo, the 2019 Asian BMX junior champion; taekwondo jins Pauline Louise Lopez, Rio Games veteran Kirstie Elaine Allora, Arven Alcantara and Kurt Barbosa; and the surfing squad led by 30th SEA Games bronze medalist John Mark Tokong.  

Only 19, Coo, who looks up to 2014 Busan Asian Games gold medalist and 2012 London Games veteran Danny Caluag, is now in Bogota, Columbia to see action in the second leg of the BMX World Cup series, an Olympic qualifier, set May 26 to 30 in the Colombian capital.  

Comprising six members, the Philippines surfing squad left on Monday to take part in the ISA World Surfing Games scheduled May 29 to June 6 in El Sunzai, El Salvador, while the national taekwondo Olympic hopefuls took flight Thursday to vie at the Asian Taekwondo qualifying tournament slated May 21 to 22 in Amman, Jordan.    

The Pinoy jins hope to reach the finals of their respective weight divisions, where the gold and silver medalists will advance to the Tokyo Summer Games.

In the United States are 30th SEA Games skateboarding gold medalists Margielyn Arda Didal and Jericho Francisco Jr., who are set to participate in the Iowa Dew Tour, and Olympic qualifier, scheduled May 20-23 in Des Moines at the Lauridsen Skatepark.

Didal, who also bagged a gold medal in her Asian Games debut in 2018 in ruling the women’s street skateboarding event, will then proceed solo to the Street World Championships from May 30 to June 6 in Rome.

Although ranked No. 14 in the current World Skate Olympic qualifying ratings, the Cebuana could snag an outright slot to the Tokyo Games if she finishes among the top 3 in her pet event at the worlds.

Expected to go through the needle’s eye is the Filipino quartet of PBA star CJ Perez, Joshua Munzon, Santi Santillan and Karl Dehesa at the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifiers scheduled May 26 to 30 in Graz, Austria.

The team is bracketed in the tough Pool C composed of Slovenia, France, Qatar and the Dominican Republic, with the top two squads after the round advancing to the eight-team knockout stage, with the two finalists and winner of the battle for third place advancing to the Tokyo Olympics.

Aspirants in judo, karate and archery see action in June

With 4-time SEA Games judo gold medalist Kiyomi Watanabe leading the way, the Filipino judokas are scheduled to compete at the World Judo championships on June 6 to 13 in Budapest, Hungary.

According to judo president Dave Carter, Watanabe has sealed a slot from the Asian continental quota, which has yet to be formally announced by the International Judo Federation so nothing is official yet.

Carter is hoping that Watanabe fares well at the worlds, “so she will go up further in the world Olympic qualifying ratings, paving the way for either siblings Shugen or Kisei Nagano to get the Asian continental slot.”   

Also slated to compete in their respective qualifiers in June are the Olympic hopefuls in karate and archery in succession in Paris.  

Karatekas bannered by 30th SEA Games gold medalists Junna Tsukii and Jamie Christine Lim and former multi-titled American champion Joan Borbon, a 30th SEA Games bronze medalist, will trade blows with other aspirants at the world karate qualifying tournament set June 11 to 13 in the French capital.

The top three finishers in the four weight classes each in the men’s and weight divisions each advance to the Tokyo Games.

Lim and Orbon have been training with the national team for the past 2 months in Istanbul, Turkey, while Tsukii has been working out all alone in Serbia while seeing action at World Karate Federation Olympic ranking tournaments.

Karate honcho Ricky Lim, who has been with the Philippines side in Istanbul, said all three female karatekas are his best bets to make the grade and make their debut at the Summer Games, where karate is taking a bow as a medal sport.

Archery will also making its qualifying bid when the recurve team of Riley Silos, Riley Silos, Jason Feliciano, Carson Hastie, Pia Elizabeth Bidaure, Phoebe Amistoso, and Monica Bidaure targeting Tokyo at the world Olympic archery qualifying tournament set June 21 to 27 in Paris.

Pursuing their own individual qualifying campaigns are sprinter and 30th SEA Games double gold medalist Kristina Knott, who is eyeing to compete in the 100 and 200 meter dashes in Tokyo, and golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan.

Largely responsible for a sweep of the women’s individual and team golds together with Lois Kaye Go in the 2018 Asian Games, Saso and Pagdanganan are currently ranked Nos. 22 and 43 in the International Golf Federation Olympic qualifying rankings.

The top 60 in the list at the end of the Olympic cut-off date on June 28 will be eligible to play in Tokyo, with those ranked Nos. 1 to 15 making it outright limited to four per country in the list. The rest will be allotted to the remaining spots limited to two per country.

Also making their individual attempts to qualify are swimmers Luke Gebbie, Remedy Rule and James Deiparine, who was the country’s lone swimming gold medalist in the 30th SEA Games when he won the 100-meter breastroke event at the New Clark City Aquatic Center in Capas, Tarlac.

The Olympic qualifying cut-off for athletics and swimming is also at the end of June.

Araneta said that universality — or so-called wild card slots are available — in the Olympic centerpiece disciplines are available in the event no Filipino qualifies in them. 


Pinoy athletes Olympics, Tokyo Olympics, Hidilyn Diaz, Didal, Yuka Saso, Eumir, Rio de Janeiro Olympics

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