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Batang Pinoy starts in Tagum

TAGUM CITY — Hostilities in the Mindanao qualifying leg of the 2013 Batang Pinoy Games will begin today with over 1,700 athletes from the region aspiring for slots in the national team.

A total of 18 gold medals are at stake in track and field while chess, badminton, softball, gymnastics and the qualifying heats in swimming are also set to get off the ground in the week-long meet organized by the Philippine Sports Commission for athletes 15 years old and below.

PSC chair Richie Garcia and Davao del Norte governor Rodolfo del Rosario graced yesterday’s colorful parade of athletes from 40 local government units all over Mindanao during the opening ceremony at the newly-built Davao del Norte Sports and Tourism Center.

“We have here today some 1,700 athletes from all over Mindanao and I think we will exceed the 2,000 mark when the games official begin tomorrow (today),’’ said Del Rosario, whose province will bid for the 2015 Palarong Pambansa after hosting the national Prisaa next year.

“This is a record as far as the Mindanao leg participation is concerned. It will have a big impact in the sense that this will really put Mindanao in the forefront of sports,’’ he added.

As of yesterday, participants in 22 sports were still trickling in, making it the biggest participation since the 2011 Mindanao leg in Zamboanga City (415 athletes) and 2012 Dapitan City (635).

“We just let the children play and hopefully the talents will be identified by the NSAs (national sports association),’’ said Garcia.

“If you perform well here, chances are you will be identified by the NSAs and put you in the pool of athletes that will eventually compete in the Asian Youth Games and even in the Youth Olympic Games,’’ added Garcia.

The winner of the boys’ 5,000-meter run will clinch the first gold medal of the tournament while the finals of the girls’ long jump, boys’ shot put and high jump, and 2,000m walk for girls will also be held today.

Gold medals in the boys’ long jump, girls’ shot put and high jump, and 110m hurdles, 100m hurdles, 100m dash, 400m, 1500m and 4x100m relay for both boys and girls will be awarded in the afternoon.

“We feature sports not in the Palaro calendar so these sports will have grassroots representation. But unlike the Palaro, the Batang Pinoy is open to all that even those children from the mountains and out-of-school kids can join,’’ said PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez.

Other disciplines on tap are arnis, beach volleyball, boxing, dancesport, futsal, judo, karatedo, lawn tennis, pencak silat, sepak takraw, soft tennis, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.

Gomez added the Batang Pinoy serves as a link to sustain the competitive fire of Palaro athletes who played in the elementary level and are now preparing to compete in the high school division.

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