By Kristel Satumbaga
Football association chief Nonong Araneta hopes the quality of Olympic qualifiers and aspirants will translate to a podium finish in the 2021 Tokyo Games scheduled July 23 to Aug. 8.
Araneta, also the country’s chief of mission to the Games, is confident the country could send at least 16 athletes to the Olympics this time – 13 Filipinos saw action in the Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil five years ago.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz stood out in that group by winning silver medal.
“So far naman sa quality ng athletes natin ngayon, malamang magkaroon tayo ng medal,” Araneta said in an interview with Radyo Pilipinas 2 Saturday,
“I hope we can produce if not the [elusive] gold medal, then a podium finish.”
So far, the country has six qualifiers in boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and gymnast Carlos Yulo.
Araneta noted some athletes who have big chance of earning Olympics ticket: Diaz, who only needed to appear in the qualifier to formalize her Olympic entry, and golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan, who is currently ranked No. 22 and 43 in the Olympic golf rankings.
Saso and Pagdanganan needed to maintain their rankings inside the Top 60 to make it to the Games.
Araneta also mentioned tracksters Eric Cray and Kristina Knott, skateboarder Margie Didal and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe who have high chances of qualifying.
Apart from these, Araneta noted the current performances of the current qualifiers in also having a bigger chance of a podium finish in the Olympics
Petecio and Yulo are current world champions, Obiena is currently in the top 5 of his field, and Marcial is a silver medalist in the 2019 world championships.