By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
The Philippine Rowing Association aims to produce Olympics qualifiers to the 2020 Tokyo Games late in July as part of its short-term program this year.
Newly elected president Patrick Gregorio said Tuesday they are sending three athletes to the Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualification Tournament in Chungju, South Korea on April 27 to 29.
Cris Nievarez will compete in the men’s lightweight sculls, while Joanie Delgaco and Melcah Caballero will see action in the women’s lightweight double sculls.
The three are responsible for the country’s three-gold medal haul at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila last December.
“I’m confident that we can qualify (to the Olympics),” said Gregorio in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Amelie Hotel.
Gregorio noted Caballero and Delgaco’s recent achievement of ranking fourth at the 2019 Asian Rowing Championships and eighth in the 2019 World Rowing Championships.
The Olympic qualifier stakes three slots in the women’s double sculls and five in the men’s singles sculls.
“We want to open more doors of opportunity for the sport and for these athletes kasi malaki talaga ang potential eh. We hope that we can provide that for them,” Gregorio said.
The last time a Filipino rower qualified to the Olympics was at the 2000 Sydney Games courtesy of Benjie Tolentino. He finished 18th in the men’s single sculls.
National team coach Ed Mayrina said they are continuing with the programs left by Uzbekistan coach Shukhrat Ganiyev, who mentored them for five months as part of their SEA Games preparation.
“More on strengthening sa legs at arms, yan ginagawa namin. Saka yung mga techniques na tinuro niya, ang laki ng improvement sa mga atleta,” Mayrina said.
Gregorio was elected last week along with former chief and now chairman emeritus Benjie Ramos, deputy secretary general and treasurer Magnum Membrere, and board members Quintin Pastrana (Vice President), Jercyl Lerin (secretary general), John Mepig (director) and Con Fornea (director).