MANILA, Philippines -- The country's chef de mission to the Tokyo Olympics is batting for more support for the Filipino athletes, as he believes that they can deliver medals at next year's Games.
"This is the best chance to have an Olympic medal, because we have three world champions," said Mariano "Nonong" Araneta, who is also the head of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF).
Four Filipinos have already qualified for the Olympics, which were postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gymnast Carlos Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno are assured of tickets to Tokyo. Of the four, both Yulo and Marcial have won championships at the world level. Araneta also noted that another boxer, Nesthy Petecio, is a world champion.
"Si Nesthy, 'di pa nag-qualify, but hopefully she can qualify sa world eliminations," he said. "So may tatlo tayong world-class athletes, and we have to support them."
Aside from these three, Araneta said the Philippines have other world-class athletes that are still vying for qualification. These include golfer Yuka Saso and skateboarder Margielyn Didal, both of whom won gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games.
Of course, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz is virtually qualified, and she will try to improve upon her silver medal from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"We really have to support these Olympians, and support them with funding and prayers," said Araneta.
"The help that they need, we are trying to push it. We have been coordinating with the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) on this matter," he added. "Supportive naman si Chairman (Butch) Ramirez."
Araneta and Ramirez recently appeared before the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development to lobby for support for the Tokyo Games budget, with Araneta requesting more than P182 million for the qualified athletes as well as Olympic hopefuls.
The two came away with the assurance of Committee Head Representative Eric Martinez that they will try to get the funding for the Olympics.
"All hands are in. Dapat lahat tayo dito. This is the best chance we have," said Martinez.