MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine cycling chief Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino is optimistic that the country can send at least one cyclist to next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Tolentino, also the president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), said 23-year-old Ariana Dormitorio is within distance of qualifying in the mountain bike event as she currently ranks fourth in Asia.
Ahead of Dormitorio are riders from Japan, China, and Iran. Japan is already assured of a slot as the host.
"Andoon na 'yung chance," Tolentino told reporters during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. "Ang kailangan lang niya, i-maintain 'yung ranking na 'yun."
Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the International Cycling Union (UCI) decided to change its qualification system for next year's Tokyo Games.
For mountain bike, there will be two World Cup weekends in 2021 where the points gained by the cyclists will be added to their accounts. UCI had suspended their rankings in March 2020. However, the organization has yet to announce when or where the World Cup weekends will be held.
Tolentino guaranteed that Dormitorio will compete in those events.
"Talagang pasasalihin natin si Ariana doon, si Dormitorio, para ma-maintain niya ang ranking niya, to get the top four in Asia," he said.
"So ma-sustain lang natin 'yun, may pag-asa," he added.
In an interview with the Olympic Channel in July, Dormitorio had expressed her confidence that she will gain enough points to make it to Tokyo, which would make her the first Filipina cyclist to qualify for the Olympics.
She took part in a test race in Japan last October, which she said boosted her confidence.
"The race course in Tokyo is very technical. We don't have something like that in the Philippines. Being able to see the track it’s going to be easier for me to adjust my training," Dormitorio said.
Dormitorio, who stands at 5-foot-1, suffered a crash in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games that kept her from winning the gold medal in the cross-country mountain bike event.
Aside from Dormitorio, Tolentino said the Philippines still has a chance to qualify in BMX as well. In 2012, Daniel Caluag represented the country in BMX in the London Games.
Four Filipino athletes have already booked their tickets to Tokyo: pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, and boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno.