MANILA, Philippines -- Like many other local sports officials, Congressman Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman Partylist is optimistic that Filipino athletes can make history in Tokyo by winning the country's first-ever Olympic gold medal.
Also a Deputy House Speaker, Romero owns the NorthPort franchise in the PBA and has been the chief of several national sports associations (NSAs), including shooting and polo.
On Tuesday, he announced that he will also give incentives to Filipino athletes who will win a medal in the Olympics: P3 million for a gold, P2 million for a silver, and P1 million for a bronze medal.
"This might be our strongest (delegation)," Romero noted during an appearance at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
The Philippines is sending 19 athletes to the Tokyo Games, where they will compete in 11 sports: sprinter Kristina Knott and pole vaulter EJ Obiena in athletics; boxers Carlo Paalam, Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno and Nesthy Petecio; golfers Juvic Pagunsan, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Yuka Saso; gymnast Carlos Yulo; judoka Kiyomi Watanabe; rower Cris Nievarez; shooter Jayson Valdez; skateboarder Margielyn Didal; swimmers Luke Gebby and Remedy Rule; taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa; and weightlifters Elreen Ando and Hidilyn Diaz.
Romero believes the delegation is a "dream team" of Filipino athletes, as they have excelled not just in the regional level but also at the global events.
In particular, Romero has high hopes for Saso and Diaz, whom he believes are the Philippines' best chances at the elusive Olympic gold medal.
"Si Yuka Saso, alam natin na she just won the U.S. Women's Open," said Romero, referring to the Fil-Japanese golfer's historic triumph last month when she won her first major. "Siguro, ang best bet natin dito is between Yuka and Hidilyn, Hidilyn being the silver medalist sa last Olympics."
"Between Hidilyn and Yuka, I guarantee at least a silver, pero the gold is not far from the reach of these two young women," he predicted.
Romero believes Diaz's experience, particularly in the 2016 Rio Olympics, will be a massive advantage as she competes in the Summer Games for the fourth time. The weightlifter had ended the country's 20-year medal drought in Rio when she won a silver medal.
But Saso's remarkable feat in the U.S. Women's Open is also a big boost of confidence, according to the businessman/sportsman.
"'Yung nagawa ni Yuka Saso, I think talagang mataas 'yung hope ko dito," he said.
Yet even as he touts Saso and Diaz's medal potential, Romero believes that any of the 19 members of the Philippine team can bring home the gold.
"This might be the strongest ever Philippine delegation to the Olympics.. I think, we have the best set of athletes that can bring home the first gold medal. I believe that we have the right tools," he said.
The Tokyo Olympics will officially open on July 23. Nievarez is the first Filipino athlete to plunge into action, as he competes in the heats of the men's single sculls on the same day.