MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino is not wavering from his expectation of at least one gold medal even as more Filipino athletes qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who already owns a silver from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, formalized her entry to Tokyo by competing in the Asian Weightlifting Championships last Sunday. For Diaz, who is ranked fifth in the world, it was the last of the six events that she needed to join to complete the qualification requirements.
The Philippines now has seven qualified athletes to Tokyo: Diaz; boxers Irish Magno, Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, and Carlo Paalam; gymnast Caloy Yulo; and pole vaulter EJ Obiena.
Tolentino, speaking during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, expressed his belief that one of these seven athletes can win the country's long-awaited gold in the Summer Games.
"Pakiramdam natin, andiyan na sa pito (ang unang gold medalist)," he said. "Sana, madagdagan pa."
"Malaki ata ang chances sa pitong 'to, na baka andiyan na (ang first gold). Sinabi naman ni Hidilyn na magi-improve pa siya, at marami siyang i-improve sa nangyari," he added.
Diaz, competing in her first physical event in over a year, did not crack the podium in the Asian Weightlifting Championships held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
With still some three months left to prepare, Diaz expects to do much better in the Tokyo Games.
Philippine sports officials are also banking on the other Olympians to make history. The officials of the country's boxing federation, in particular, believe this is their best chance to finally win a gold.
Even as expectations keep rising for the Filipino Olympians, Tolentino is maintaining the prediction that he's held for some time now.
"'Pag ako ang tinanong, very conservative," he said. "Minimum one. Minimum one is the best bet."
The Philippines has not won a gold since joining the Olympics in 1924. Before Diaz's silver in Rio, the last time that the Philippines reached the podium was in 1996 in Atlanta, when boxer Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco seized silver in the light flyweight division.
Aside from the seven who already punched their tickets to the Games, golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe are still on track to qualify for the Games as well.