TOKYO – This is where the gold drought ends.
This is the kind of optimism sporting leaders harbor here, emboldened by the credentials of a Filipino team seeking to produce an Olympic champion, or two, as the Summer Games officially begin Friday amid a restrictive environment enforced by a still. – raging pandemic.
But one of the country’s bright gold hopes is warning everyone not to think that past success is enough to guarantee a gold medal here.
“This is a new game, a new tournament, a new challenge,” said Nesthy Petecio, a reigning world champion in women’s boxing who had been labeled a source of gold. “We still have to work hard.”
“We cannot take our records to this new fight. Your achievements, your name, if I throw this at my opponent, will that give me a point? If I say that I am a gold medalist in the world championship and in the SEA Games (Southeast Asia), does that mean that I will win my next fight? Petetus added.
Maybe not. But it’s hard to temper expectations with the kind of talent the Philippine team is bringing to the Olympic fight.
Carlos Yulo is a current gymnastics world champion, and he ruled the floor exercise in 2019. Weightlifter Hidilyn Díaz is a silver medalist at the last Summer Games in Brazil. The pole vault EJ Obiena is No. 6 in the world and has won gold in various tournaments with opponents he will face here. Yuka Saso recently stomped on the world’s best female golfers at the US Women’s Open a few months ago.
“We are ready for at least one gold here,” said Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) that oversees Filipino athletes here.
Eumir Marcial and judo star Kiyomi
Watanabe will carry the flag in an opening ceremony that will be diluted. Spectators will already be banned from the stadium and only foreign dignitaries and sports officials will be able to see the opening.
But it will still be memorable. Knowing Japan, there will be great surprises, “said Tolentino.
Earlier in the day, rower Cris Nievarez will kick off the Philippines campaign at Sea Forest Waterways when he campaigns in the men’s singles scull preliminaries.
Nievarez told Inquirer’s SportsIQ that even though he is a long shot for a medal, he will do his best to at least put his sport in the main discussion.
“By representing the Philippines, I will put my sport in the spotlight,” said Nievarez.
Putting these games in the spotlight wouldn’t be difficult. It is already the most scrutinized edition of the Olympic Games in history, if only for unprecedented health protocols that have caused anxiety to some of the country’s representatives.
“Before flying to Tokyo, you do the test three times; when you arrive, they test you every day, ”Díaz told the Inquirer. “You get anxious about it.”
But perhaps the most striking feature: no fans will be allowed in the venues as the host city grapples with waves of COVID-19 infections.
“To be honest, it’s sad,” Diaz said in Filipino. “There is no audience to cheer on ‘Philippines’ … after a good uprising.”
But it is a trade-off that almost all athletes are willing to make for an event that is already a year late.
“All the athletes that qualified, we really want this to happen so that we can perform. We will never know if in the next Olympic Games we will still be strong enough to qualify, ”added Díaz, a four-time Olympian. “So even if there are no people in the stands, we still have a chance to show how good the Filipinos are.”
Good enough for gold? Gym boss Cynthia Carrion certainly thinks so.
Carrion doubled down on his prediction of a gold for Yulo, who recovered from an injury he sustained two weeks ago while attempting a “sure win” play.
“If he could do it, 101 percent would win the gold,” Carrión said. But the Yulo team took a different direction, Carrión added, after Yulo’s injury.
“The coach said they won’t do it anymore,” Carrión said. Also, if you can’t do it perfectly, you could be disqualified.
But he is ready. He is very strong and he is working very hard to win, ”Carrión said.
She was talking about Yulo, yes, but she could have been talking about all the members of this Philippine Team who have people who see gold. INQ
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