Sports

PHL athletes begin training in France for Paris Olympics as 3 more gain berths

PARIS/MANILA – Work began in earnest at the Team Philippines training camp in Metz, France on Sunday with Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and Chef de Mission Jonvic Remulla leading the rounds at the all-in facility where the Olympics-bound Filipino athletes will get in harness for a month.

“It’s all systems go here at La Moselle,” said Tolentino, adding “and the morale of the team is very high.”

 This as swimmers Kayla Sanchez and Harold Hatch, and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe have qualified for the Paris Olympics, increasing the roster of Team Philippines to 18.

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is still waiting for a letter from the International Golf Federation (IGF), which will confirm that Bianca Pagdanganan (No. 35) and Dottie Ardina (No. 55) qualified. The top 60 is the cut off for the Olympics.

Sanchez, who will be returning to the Olympics this time representing the Philippines, has entered the women’s 100m freestyle while Hatch will compete in the men’s 100m butterfly.

Watanabe, on the other hand, qualified through the continental quota in the women’s -63kg event. She will be making her second Olympics appearance after Tokyo.

“Great news, and we can even ask for more,” said POC president Tolentino, who is in Metz, France overseeing the pre-Paris training camp at La Moselle with chef de mission Jonvic Remulla.

Tolentino said he is waiting for an official announcement from World Athletics on who will join world’s No. 2 men’s pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena in Paris. “We’re expecting more.”

The Philippines is celebrating its 100 years of participation in the Olympic Games.

“We’re chasing more history, we’re setting the ante higher,” said Tolentino, hoping to duplicate or surpass the one gold, two silver, and bronze medals achieved in Tokyo.

With 20 athletes, the country has surpassed the Tokyo Olympics where Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo delivered the Philippines’ first gold medal.

This marks the first time that the POC is conducting a training camp for Olympic athletes a month before competition—the Paris Olympics start July 26.

“The first batch of athletes that flew in with us here last Saturday morning are amazed with the facility and are eager to wind up their training for their respective events for the Olympics,” said Tolentino, who met up with Team Philippines with Remulla in Metz also on Sunday.

“The athletes are excited and enthusiastic about this training camp the main objective of which is to make sure our athletes are in top shape for the competitions,” Remulla said.

The first batch of the 15 Filipino athletes who are so far qualified for the Olympics included weightlifters Vanessa Sarno and Elreen Ando, boxers Aira Villegas, Hergie Bacyadan, Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio, rower Joanie Delgaco and weightlifter John Febuar Ceniza.

They are also accompanied by secretary-general Wharton Chan, the athletes coached and trainers and a lean POC staff who set the facility ahead of the team’s arrival and will be in France for the entire duration of the Games that end August 11.

Expected to arrive in Metz in the next few days are boxer Eumir Felix Marcial, fencer Samantha Catantan and gymnasts Carlos Yulo, Emma Malabuyo and Levi Ruivivar.

Team Philippines to Paris, Tolentino said, would breach the 20-athlete mark with more qualifiers expected in athletics, golf and swimming—the sport’s international federations will announce the official qualifiers for the Olympics this week.

“The Paris campaign is now in full throttle,” he said.

In 2020 Tokyo Olympics, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo won the country’s first ever gold medal while Paalam and Petecio brought home silver medal each and Marcial with bronze medal for the Philippines’ best finish in the most prestigious quadrennial meet.

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