POLE vault superstar Ernest John Obiena is not the only one who can bring honors to the country in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
In fact, five more talented Filipino athletes are just waiting for the opportunity to make it to the Olympics now scheduled July 23-Aug. 8.
One of them is Filipino-American Kristina Knott.
“Kristina will almost surely make it toTokyo. We’re confident she will,” said Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Philip Juico during the 16th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom yesterday.
Juico was particularly proud with the 26-year-old Knott, who broke the 33-year-old Philippine record of Asia’s fastest woman Lydia de Vega in the women’s 100-meter dash during the 2020 Drake Blue Oval Showcase in Iowa last month.
“She (Kristina) has the biggest chance among all of them. She’s not even one second away from the Olympic qualifying mark,” added Juico during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
Juico also said 2019 Southeast Asian Games marathon champion Christine Hallasgo has a very good chance of booking a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
“While the four other Olympic hopeful are training abroad, Hallasgo is doing her best to improve in Bukidnon,” explained Juico.
The Olympic qualifying mark in marathon is 2:29.30.
Hallasgo registered 2:56.52 in the SEA Games in Manila last year, enough to upset 2016 Rio Olympian Mary Joy Tabal.
“She (Hallasgo) will most likely compete in marathon in the Standard Chartered in Singapore on Dec. 6. We’re just were waiting for their rules on protocols and other matters.”
The rest of the Philippine-based national athletes also continue to train despite the current health situation.
“Tuloy-tulong nlang ang training. We monitor them everyday online and we render a report to the PSC every month,” explained Juico.
“Right now, we’re asking for permisison from the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) to hold a training bubble in Luzon on the first week of November. Malamang sa New Clark City.”
“Madami lang requirements, madaming kailangan gawin. I think naka-salang kami sa IATF para makipag-usap next week.”
“As I’ve said, may situation tayo na pandemya, so we have to adjust. We were dealt a hand and we have to deal with it and we will play that hand. We will make do with whatever way we can. That’s our philosophy in the PATAFA now that we have a public health emergency,” explained Juico.
Aside from Knott and Hallasgo, the other prominent athletes in Juico’s short list are 2019 SEA Games gold medalists Eric Cray (400-meter hurdles), Natalie Uy (pole vault), ans William Morrison (shot put).
Except for Hallasgo, all four athletes who are close to booking tickets to the Tokyo Olympics are currently training and competing abroad where they can qualify either by ranking or by outright qualification.
“Cray already represented the country in the 400-meter hurdles in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics where he finished seventh in his semifinal heat,” recalled Juico.
“Morrison just fiished college, but now he can’t still fully train because of the pandemic. But he still has a lot of months to catch up.”
Actually, Obiena and the rest of Tokyo Olympics hopefuls will seek to end the country’s long 85-year medal drought in athletics in the Olympics.
So far, the Philippines has won only two Olympic medals in athletics — bronze by Simeon Toribio in high jump in 1932 Los Angeles and Miguel White in 400-meter hurdles in 1936 Berlin.
The last time the Philippines was able to send more than five track and field athetes was in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where Lydia de Vega (women’s 100 and 200 meters), Elma Muros (women’s long jump), Agripina de la Cruz (women’s 400m hurdles), Isidro del Prado ( men’s 400 meters) Hector Begeo ( men’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Leonardo Ilut (men’s marathon) represented the country.
On record, the Philippines sent a 10-man Filipino delegation to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
The Philippines was represented by Mona Sulaiman, Josephine de la Vina, Lolita Lagrosas, Claro Pellosis, Miguel Ebreo, Arsenio Jazmin, Aida Molinas, Loretta Barcenas, Nelly Restar and Mildred Canete.
It was the largest Filipino track and field delegation to the Olympics.