MANILA, Philippines – Filipino athletes are asking for constant prayers and support from their countrymen as they compete in the biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games, in London this July.
|Members of the Philippine Olympic Team for the 2012 Olympic Games in London pose for pictures during their send-off ceremony on Monday. They are (from left) Jamine Alkhadi for swimming, Marestella Torres for long jump, Hidilyn Diaz for weightlifting, Mark Anthony Barriga for boxing, Jessie Khing Lacuna also for swimming, Rene Herrera for the 5000m run and Brian Rosario for skeet shooting.
Eleven Filipino athletes have qualified for the London Games: tracsksters Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera, boxer Mark Barriga, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuña, shooter Brian Rosario, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, BMX rider Daniel Caluag, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, and archers Mark Javier and Rachel Cabral.
A ceremonial send-off for the athletes was held last night at the Blue Leaf in McKinley Hills Village, with Philippine Olympic Committee President Peping Cojuangco in attendance.
The Filipino Olympians are optimistic of their chances in London, even as they admit that they will face stiff competition.
“Sobrang hirap, lalo na ngayon. ‘Yung mga kalaban ko mga Olympic players na rin noon, mga naka-gold na, naka-silver, nag-bronze,” said Barriga, who will campaign at the light flyweight division.
But shooter Rosario is confident that he can go for gold in his sport. “It is a pretty equal game,” he said.
The athletes are all asking for Filipinos’ support and prayers as the country prepares to send a small delegation to the 2012 Olympics.
There were 15 athletes in the Philippines’ delegation to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
“Keep on supporting us and keep on praying for us, para makakuha kami ng magandang place and times,” said Lacuña, who will compete in the 200-meter freestyle event.
“Sa mga kababayan, sana ipanalangin n’yo po kami na sana, kundisyon ang mga katawan namin sa oras ng laro,” added Herrera, who will compete in the 5000-meter run.
“Subaybayan n’yo po kami. Kaming mga atletang Pilipino, ibibigay namin ang lakas namin para makamit ang gintong medalya,” Herrera promised.
Seven Olympians (Diaz, Torres, Herrera, Alkhaldi, Lacuña, Rosario and Barriga) will leave Manila for the United Kingdom this Sunday.
Meanwhile, Hoshina will go straight to London from Japan, while Caluag will come from the United States.
Another boxer, Charly Suarez, is still waiting for news from the International Boxing Federation (AIBA), after the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) wrote the governing body and asked for a slot for the boxer.
Cojuangco and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao also wrote letters of appeal to AIBA.
Suarez nearly made the Olympics but lost to China’s Qiang Liu in the gold medal match in the Asian qualifying tournament in Kazakhstan last April.-- Report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News; with a report from Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star.