Back to training for Pinoy Olympians in Rio

Rick Olivares

Posted at Jul 27 2016 04:40 PM

Ian Lariba at the Athletes Village at Barra Da Tijuca. Photo provided by author

The seven Filipino athletes already in Rio de Janeiro, a bustling city of seven million people, have finally gotten their body clocks attuned to the local time and resumed training in earnest.

“I guess everybody’s feeling better now. We’re all sleeping better. We’re all rested,” said swimmer Jessie Lacuna who trained with Jasmine Alkhaldi under the tutelage and watchful eyes of their respective coaches Archie Lim and Jennifer Buffin.

“We also spent some time trying to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. That really helps."

Alkhaldi arrived in Rio last Monday, traveling from her base in Hawaii via Dallas and Miami for an even longer flight of 31 hours. The Philippine contingent that departed Manila last Saturday spent close to 30 hours in the air and in airports en route to Brazil.

Both swimmers spent two hours each in the pool in morning and afternoon sessions. Alkhaldi is entered in the women’s 100-m freestyle, while Lacuna will swim in the men’s 400-m freestyle.

READ: First Asian-American to win an Olympic medal was half Pinoy

One advantage that both swimmers have along with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang is they have all previously competed in the Olympics. The pressure of competing aside, they know how to calm their nerves. Something the rest of the delegation has yet to master.

Table tennis paddler Ian Lariba admitted to still battling nerves and excitement.

“I’m nervous and excited at the same time. I can feel the pressure,” she said Tuesday evening at the dining hall of the Athletes Village, where she was accompanied by her South Korean coach Mi Sook Kwon who won a silver medal in the 1989 World Table Tennis Championships in Dortmund, Germany.

“I spent a couple of hours trying to familiarize myself with the tables to be used, the ball speed, the flooring, as well as the competition venue."

“I’m also excited because I will be carrying the Philippine flag during the Opening Ceremony (on the evening of August the 5th),” said the 22-year old Lariba.

Diaz, the 2012 London Olympics flag bearer and who is in her third Olympics, is feeling better. For over a week, she has battled a bad cough that has hampered her training. Team doctor Dr. Ferdinand Brawner has been monitoring her condition round the clock.

Taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora sparred with her coach, former Southeast Asian Games finweight Kitoy Cruz in the afternoon. Alora will be taking the flag from Lariba once the Philippine delegation passes the VIP stand of the Maracaña Stadium, site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Boxing bets Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez are scheduled to arrive in Rio on Wednesday via Las Vegas, accompanied by coach Boy Velasco, the lone boxing coach from the Philippines with a Rio Olympics credential.

Ed Picson, executive director of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), is sending another coach, Romeo Brin, to Rio, to assist Velasco, but is having great difficulty securing entry passes for the former to help out at least in the training venue.

Organizers are very strict in issuing credentials to officials, including coaches and trainers and therapists from each country, limiting the number to the lowest possible. Should Brin be unable to secure credentials, Philippine chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta and security officer Colonel Jeff Tamayo are ready to assist Velasco in the boxers’ corners.

“Our athletes are fully rested now and are seriously training. We still have nine days to the opening. If everything falls into place, the medal or medals will come,” said Romasanta.

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