MANILA, Philippines -- The president of the country's track and field federation is not putting any pressure on national athletes when they compete in the Philippines Athletics Championships in Baguio City on December 16 and 17.
It will be the first major event that the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) is staging in close to two years, as the COVID-19 pandemic only allowed for virtual races and online seminars in the past months.
Around 40 national athletes have been training in Baguio since October. They will be joined in the national open by several other competitors from all over the country, and nearly 200 athletes are expected to take part in the competition that will be held at the Baguio Athletic Bowl.
But PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico acknowledged that there's no guarantee the Filipino track stars can perform at the top level in the competition.
"Sabi nga ni Coach Jeoff (Chua), we're not after the best performance now. We just want to keep you fit," Juico said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
"Because, two months (of training) cannot do it," he pointed out. "Remember in Pangasinan, we were there for six months before the SEA Games, from April to September."
Filipino track stars won 11 gold medals in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Chua said that at the start of their training camp in Baguio, they already explained their expectations for the national team athletes.
"From the very start of the training camp, we just told them, binigyan lang namin silang chance to perform. Not to really compete to the highest level, because as we all know, two months isn't really enough," he said.
"Two months is enough for them to be fit, and to be ready for the next competition, maybe early next year. So we're trying to be very, very fit, para pagdating ng January, come the New Year, we are all ready for new challenges," he added.
Chua said the goal is to see a 50% improvement in the national athletes' strength and conditioning from the time they entered the camp to when they compete in the national open.
The national open will serve as the first step towards qualifying for the national team that will compete in the 31st SEA Games in Vietnam in May 2022, as well as the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in September 2022.
Eighteen events in the men's and women's division will be contested.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the marathon will not be held. Reigning SEA Games champion Christine Hallasgo, who is training in Baguio with the national team, will compete in the 10,000 meters instead.
Competitors who pull off upsets against national athletes will be in consideration for the national team pool, Juico said.
"They will be considered already, they will be evaluated by the coaches, by the technical team," he said.
The Philippine Athletics Championships will be closed to the public, in accordance with the COVID-19 protocols of Baguio City.