MANILA, Philippines -- With just 50 days to go before the Tokyo Olympics, the chief of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is confident that more Filipino athletes can still qualify.
Nine Filipino athletes are already assured of spots in the Games: boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio, and Carlo Paalam; weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz; pole vaulter EJ Obiena; gymnast Carlos Yulo; rower Cris Nievarez; and taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa.
But POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino believes the Philippine delegation to Tokyo can exceed that in the Rio Olympics, where 13 Filipino athletes competed in eight different events.
That included Diaz, who ended the Philippines' 20-year medal drought when she won silver in the women's 53kg division.
"Definitely, malalampasan 'yung 13 (athletes)," Tolentino said recently.
Tolentino expects two golfers to qualify via their rankings, and for two swimmers and one track athlete to make it via the universality rule.
He also expects skateboarder Margiely Didal to secure her spot soon.
"So that's 15. Alin pa -- may karate, may judo, basketball, archery," he said. "So lalampas. Definitely, lalampas ng 13 (athletes)."
For golf, qualification is via the Olympic Golf Ranking. From the current rankings, two Filipinas can qualify — Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan. Qualification ends on June 28.
Meanwhile, Filipino track athletes are still trying to meet the Olympic qualifying standard in their respective events, with the qualification period ending on June 29. Recently, Eric Cray set a season-best of 50.4 seconds in winning the 400-meter hurdles at the Duval County Challenge.
The Olympic qualifying standard for the men's 400-meter hurdles is 48.9 seconds.
Didal, a gold medalist in the 2018 Asian Games, can claim an Olympic berth in the Street Skateboarding World Championships this week in Rome, Italy.
Filipino judokas, archers, and karate jins are also set to compete in qualifiers this month.
The Philippine men's basketball team still has an outside chance as well, as they compete in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia from June 29 to July 4.
The qualifying events are taking place even as doubts continue to surround the Summer Games, which have already been postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tolentino, speaking during the Laging Handa public briefing last Tuesday, stressed that the POC is in full support of the International Olympic Committee's stance that the Games should push through.
"Nananalangin po kami na sana matuloy po ito dahil, una, sobrang higpit po ng gagawing protocol ng Japan," he said.
"Ang isa pong dahilan natin na sana po ay matuloy – para sa akin po, sa POC sana po ay matuloy – after 100 years, baka naman ito po iyong best chance natin na magkaroon na tayo ng first-ever gold medal," he added.
"So sayang po iyong pagkakataon or else we're gonna wait another four years sa Paris by 2024. So sayang po iyong preparasyon ng ating mga atleta."