By NICK GIONGCO
Chief of mission Nonong Araneta is in the process of finalizing the blueprint for the ambitious Philippine campaign in the Tokyo Olympics from July 24-Aug. 9.
“This year, everything is geared towards the Olympics,” Araneta, who heads the Philippine Football Federation, told the Bulletin yesterday.
To put the country’s bold bid in motion, Araneta is gathering the heads of about 15 national sports associations tomorrow to determine the road they are all going to trek in the pursuit of Olympic qualification.
So far, two athletes—world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo and fast-rising Italy-based pole vaulter Ej Obiena—have secured Olympic slots.
Araneta said countless NSAs are likewise in the thick of preparations to send their top bets in various Olympic qualifying tournaments overseas.
“We’d like to know everything about their respective bids to qualify, the requirements they need when they compete.”
Armed with a whopping P100-million from Malacañang, excluding P50 million from the Philippine Sports Commission, the Olympic drive is being eyed by Araneta to produce not just qualifiers but medalists.
“I just hope that the string of big wins by Filipino athletes would continue well into Tokyo,” he said.
Also being eyed to make the Olympic grade are top boxers Eumir Marcial, the 2019 world championships silver medalist, and women’s world champion Nesthy Petecio and 2018 Asian Games skateboarding queen Margie Didal, Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and a few other standouts from judo, taekwondo, athletics and golf.
There will be 33 sports and 339 gold medals at stake and these are in aquatics (49), archery (5), athletics (48), badminton (5), baseball/softball (2), basketball (4), boxing (13), canoeing (16), cycling (22), equestrian (6), fencing (12), field hockey (2), football (2), golf (2), gymnastics (18), handball (2), judo (15), karate (8), pentathlon (2), rowing (14), rugby (2), sailing (10), shooting (15), skateboarding (4), sport climbing (2), surfing (2), table tennis (5), taekwondo (8), tennis (5), triathlon (3), volleyball (4), weightlifting (14) and wrestling (18).
In the 100-year old history of Philippine participation in the quadrennial games, a gold remains the ultimate dream.
Of the ten Olympic medals brought home, five came from boxing, including two silver medals, two bronze each from swimming and athletics, and of course, Diaz’s silver four years ago in Brazil.
In Rio 2016, there were 13 athletes who competed and Araneta is upbeat that there will be more in Tokyo.