POC wants more Filipino athletes in 2026 Winter Games

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2022 12:28 PM

Asa Miller was the lone athlete to represent the Philippines in the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. Denis Balibouse, Reuters.
Asa Miller was the lone athlete to represent the Philippines in the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. Denis Balibouse, Reuters.

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is encouraging relevant national sports associations (NSAs) to search for athletes -- both homegrown and heritage -- who can qualify for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milano and Cortina in Italy.

"It's time to look for other talents not only in Alpine skiing but also in other events like figure skating, bobsleigh, curling, snowboard and freestyle and cross-country skiing," POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino said. "I believe that there're a lot of talents abroad with Filipino blood who can represent the country."

Asa Miller was the country's lone representative in the Beijing Winter Games in men's giant slalom and slalom. The two-time Winter Olympian registered DNFs (did not finish) in both races.

Tolentino said the POC will not hesitate to recruit more athletes through the help of Philippine Ski and Snowboard Federation and Philippine Skating Union. These NSAs are headed by Jim Apelar and Nikki Cheng, respectively.

"We will explore the Winter Games sports and we will try to find more Filipino talents," Tolentino said. "I believe there are disciplines that we can excel in."

Tolentino said that despite Miller's mishap in Beijing, his qualification alone in two events is already worth being proud of.

"Representing us in the Winter Olympics twice is absolutely big for us as a tropical nation," he said. "We're still proud of Asa."

The Philippines was the first tropical nation — also from Southeast Asia — to participate in the Winter Olympics with cousins Ben Nanasca and Juan Cipriano qualifying for Alpine skiing in the 1972 Sapporo Games. 

Only four other Filipinos, however, made it to the Winter Games — luger Raymond Ocampo (1988 Calgary), Alpine skier Michael Turuel (1992 Albertville), figure skater Michael Christian Martinez (2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang) and Miller (Pyeongchang and Beijing).

Apelar said he believes Miller will return for his third Winter Olympic, but named five other potential youngsters who have bright futures in winter sports. They are 19-year-old Alpine skier Brandon Leitner, 21-year-old freestyle mogul skier Melvin Kangas, 24-year-old snowboard athlete Adrian Lee Tongko, and 19-year-old skier Ana Noelle Wahleithner. 

Cheng, on the other hand, said her NSA is banking on 18-year-old short track speed skater Julian Macaraeg and 16-year-old figure skater Sofia Frank.