13 Filipinos secure Paris Olympic berths, more expected – POC

By Jeanne Michael Penaranda

MANILA – The Philippine athletes delegation to the Paris Olympics from July 26 to August 11 has increased to 13, bouying hopes for at least 19 athletes to the summer games.

A happy Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Chairman Abraham “Bembol” Tolentino made the announcement in an Olympic Journey briefing in Makati City.

Earlier, weightlifter Vanessa Sarno won a berth in the Paris  Games after lifting a total of 245 kilograms to place fifth in the women’s 71kg division of the International Weight Lifting Federation World Cup in Phuket, Thailand.

Aside from Sarno those who earned direct qualification to Paris were pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena; boxers Eumir Felix Marcial, Nesthy Petecio and Aira Villegas; weightlifters Erleen Ann Ando and John Febuar Ceniza; and gymnasts Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan.

In the same briefing, Tolentino said weightlifter Rosegie Ramos is technically qualified in the women’s 49 kgs class although she is No. 11 in the world rankings after the Phuket World Cup, the final Olympic qualifying event for weightlifting.

“A Belgian [Niña Sterckx] ranks No. 7 in Rosegie’s class, but she lacks the mandatory six qualifiers for Paris, and according to weightlifting’s international federation, Rosegie’s technically qualified,” said Tolentino, who is also the Philippine cycling federation president.

The POC chief said swimmers Kyla Sanchez and Jarrod Hatch have qualified under the universality rule. The 13th qualifier is in women’s athletics also via the universality rule.

Tolentino said still hoping to qualify are Robyn Brown (athletics), Kurt Barbosa (taekwondo), Cris Nievarez (rowing), Joanie Delgaco (rowing), brothers Keisei and Shugen Nakano (judo), Yuta Watanabe (judo), Jericho Francisco (skateboarding), Patrick Coo (BMX cycling), Shagne Yaoyao (MTB cycling), Emma Malabuyo (gymnastics), Bianca Pagdanganan (golf) and Carlo Paalam (boxing), Criz Laurente (boxing), Hergie Bacyadan (boxing) and Rogen Ladon (boxing).

Sarno, 20, punched her way to the Paris Summer Games when she actually topped Class B, avoiding the better weightlifters who were bracketed in Class A, after she hoisted 110 kilos in the snatch and 135 kilos in the clean-and-jerk in Thailand, the last Olympic qualifying meet.

Meanwhile, Mitchell Saron, 23, a Filipino American student at Harvard University has secured a spot on Team USA’s fencing lineup to the Paris Olympics.

Saron will be competing in Men’s Saber for both individual and team categories, it was reported.

In another development, Olympic medalist swimmer Kayla Sanchez may compete for the Philippines after the International Olympic Committee approved her sporting citizenship change from Canada to Filipino. 

 In the Phuket qualifying meet, American sensation Olivia Reeves, who just turned 20, stamped her class, securing the top spot and a gold-medal sweep of the three events with lifts of 118 and 150 kilos for a combined tally of 268 kilos, eclipsing reigning Chinese world champion Liao Gui fang (115-149-264).

North Korea’s Song Kuk-hyang, who is No. 1 in the Olympic qualifying rankings but is not eligible for lack of qualifying competitions, finished third (115-146-261).

With her feat, Sarno, the pride of Tagbilaran City, Bohol  becomes the country’s fourth weightlifter to make it to the Paris Summer Games after Rosegie Ramos (women’s 49kg), Elreen Ann Ando (women’s 71kg) and Jose Fabuar Ceniza (men’s 61kg).

Sarno is currently ranked No. 6 in the IWF Olympic rankings, with the top 10 securing outright tickets to the Summer Games in the French capital in July.

The confirmation of their Paris stints will be officially announced by the world weightlifting body on April 28, according to Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella.

It will be the highest number of weightlifters the country will field in the quadrennial sports spectacle since Hidylin Diaz-Naranjo and Nestor Colonia saw action in the 2012 London Olympiad.

 Sarno’s output in the Phuket meet was enough to maintain her fifth place standing in the IWF Olympic Qualification Ranking, where only the top 10 weightlifters in each category can earn tickets to the Summer Games

The IWF World Cup is one of two mandatory events in order to qualify for the Paris Olympics—the other being the 2023 IWF World Championships in Riyadh. 

Meanwhile, another Filipina, Kristel Macrohon, lifted a total of 233kg in Group B, good for sixth place. (with Jean Malanum/PNA)