By Waylon Galvez

The leadership of the Philippine Olympic Committee got a fresh start following the election of Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino in a special election held last July.

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Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Bambol Tolentino (MB File Photo / Alvin Kasiban)

Tolentino, head of the cycling association, won over athletics chief Philip Ella Juico 24-20 in the polls called by the International Olympic Committee.

Tolentino’s election to the highest post in the country’s Olympic body was the second in less than two years after the resignation of POC president Ricky Vargas of boxing in November.

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Philip Ella Juico (MB photo / Rio Deluvio)

It also marked the third time than an election took place in an Olympic cycle – and first since November 2016 when Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. retained his post, and the second in February 2018 when Vargas won.

Following his election, Tolentino focused on the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, and under his leadership was able to convince the SEA Games Federation Council to approve 56 sports disciplines.

The decision to stage 56 events – the biggest in SEA Games history – was a success as Team Philippines went on to bag the overall championship with 149 gold medals, 117 silvers and 121 bronzes.

The next mission, Tolentino said, is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the country aims for its first gold medal.

“After the success of the SEA Games hosting and Team Philippines winning the overall title, that’s our target, the first Olympic gold medal. Hopefully, 2020 is the year we get that elusive Olympic gold,” he said.

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GREATNESS — Legendary Filipino athletes, namely Lydia de Vega-Mercado, Paeng Nepomuceno, Akiko Thomson, Onyok Velasco, Efren “Bata” Reyes, Eric Buhain, Bong Coo and Alvin Patrimonio, banner the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Federation flag in the opening ceremony of the 30th SEA Games at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, November 30, 2019. (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio, File)

The stint of Tolentino as POC president, as well as that of other elected officials of the Olympic body, will end in November 2020, including the post held by handball’s Steve Hontiveros, chairman of the POC board.

Both are eligible to seek fresh mandates though.

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