MANILA, Philippines - The first group of Philippine athletes and officials received a warm welcome from their London-based countrymen, tired after a long journey from Manila but excited and eager to join the free training camp ahead of the 30th Olympic Games.
Shooter Brian Rosario and swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna shook hands and exchanged pleasantries from Philippine Embassy and Filipino community officials while getting best wishes during the reception accorded them upon arrival late last week at the Heathrow airport.
“Good luck and more power to all of you as you strive to win a medal,” Embassy official Rey Catapang told the group that also included coaches Ray Brosas of swimming and Gay Corral of shooting and administrative officer Arsenic Lacson.
During their turn to speak, the athletes, wearing their team jackets, promised to give their best shot while telling their kababayans the gains they could get out of their 15-day stay in the camp introduced for the first time in the Games.
Told of the warm welcome the team received, Phl team chief of mission Manny Lopez thanked the embassy and Filipino community for the “kind gesture that will definitely boost the morale of our Olympians.”
From the airport, the group proceeded to their respective training camps by bus, with Alkhaldi, Lacuna and Brosas settling down at the sprawling Surrey Sports Park in Guildford and Rosario staying at the centuries-old E.J. Churchill shooting range set amid 40 acres of woodland in West Wycombe Estate.
Weighlifter Hidilyn Diaz and her coach Tony Agustin, who arrived the other day, will also stay at the Surrey Sports park, which boasts of around 100 strength and conditioning centers, outdoor tennis courts, a 1000-seat arena and artificial and grass pitches.
Meanwhile, the track and field team of long jumper Marestella Torres, long distance runner Rene Herrera and coach Joseph Sy fly to Hong Kong this evening on their way to London to join the Filipino “early birds” in the training camp.
Once they arrive after an 18-hour trip, Torres, Herrera and Sy go straight to Guilford Specturm Leisure Complex, which houses an eight-lane track, Olympic-sized swimming ice skating rink, four swimming pools and 32-lane bowling center.
Mark Barriga, seen by many as the brightest prospect for a medal, leaves on July 5, accompanied by coach Barcelona Olympics bronze medalist Roel Velasco.
Only 11 athletes made up the Olympic squad, which is being supported by ICTSI, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Samsonite, Mizuno, Smart Sports, Petron and Philracom.
The others are judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, archers Mark Javier and Rachel Anne Cabral and BMX rider Dally Caluag, who are all leaving on July 19 along with their coaches and two officials.