Tokyo Olympic hopefuls get busy early

By: June Navarro - Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 03,2020 - 11:12 AM

Weightlifters, headlined by Rio de Janeiro silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, will kick off the series of qualifying meets this year beginning with the Roma 2020 World Cup on Jan. 27-31, 2019. | Inquirer photo

Team Philippines has a clear objective of sending more qualifiers to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics than usual, with over 70 Filipino athletes from various sports seeking coveted spots in the first quarter of the year.

Weightlifters, headlined by Rio de Janeiro silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and fellow Olympian Nestor Colonia, will kick off the series of qualifying meets this year beginning with the Roma 2020 World Cup on Jan. 27-31, 2019.

Joining them are female lifters Kristel Macrohon and Elreen Ando, who are likewise wrapping up their Olympic qualifying quest in the 2020 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on April 20-25, 2019 together with Maryflor Diaz, John Ceniza and Jeffrey Garcia.

World champion Nesthy Petecio and Eumir Marcial are the leading contenders as the national boxers try their luck in the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifying meet on Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan, China, followed by the world Olympic qualifying tournament on May 13-24 in Paris.

Sprinter Kristina Knott, the gold medalist in the women’s 200 meters in the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games, will get a chance to prove herself on the continental stage on Feb. 12-13 during the Asian Athletics Indoor Championships in Hangzhou, China.

Besides Knott, pole vaulter Natalie Uy and lady marathoner Cristine Hallasgo are the prime candidates to join pole vaulter EJ Obiena as track and field’s bets in Tokyo.

Obiena was the first Filipino who made it to the Summer Games set July 24-Aug. 9 before gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo joined him after becoming a finalist and eventually winning the floor exercise event in the World Championship in Germany last October.

Skateboarders Margielyn Didal and Kiko Francisco are aiming to improve their rankings for a sure Olympic slot in five pro tour events starting with the World Skate Lima Open on March 16-22, before the WS World Championships in London set on May 19-24.

Also looking to book tickets to Tokyo are golfers Yuka Saso, Dottie Ardina and Bianca Pagdanganan; karatekas Joane Orbon, Junna Tsukii, Sharif Afif and Jamie Lim; juduoka Kiyomi Watanabe; BMX cyclist Daniel Caluag and swimmers James Deiparine and Remedy Rule.

Philippine Sports Commission Chair William “Butch” Ramirez announced before last year ended that President Duterte had instructed the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to allocate P100 million for the training and competition of these athletes in Olympic qualifying tourneys.

The P100-million Olympic war chest will boost the possible number of Filipino qualifiers, which ranged from 13-15 in the past.

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TAGS: 2020, athletes, Hidilyn Diaz, Olympics, Philippine Sports, Tokyo, weightlifting

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