MANILA, Philippines – Buoyed by the gold medals it won in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Rowing Association (PRA) has set its sights on the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
The federation, under newly-elected president Patrick Gregorio, bared that its goal is to qualify any – if not all – of the three paddlers who bagged a gold medal in the SEA Games last December.
The lone Olympic qualifier for rowing is scheduled three months from now, and Gregorio expressed the PRA's commitment of providing all-out support to the Filipinos' bid of earning a berth in Tokyo as part of his initial project as head of the association.
"Kung papalarin, baka makakuha pa tayo ng isa pang qualifier para sa Tokyo Olympics," said Gregorio, the former PBA Board chairman who currently serves as secretary-general of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
The trio of Joanie Delgaco, Melcah Jen Caballero, and Chris Nievarez all won gold medals in the last SEA Games, and will vie in the lone Asia and Oceania qualification tournament set in Chungju, South Korea from April 27 to 29.
Delgaco and Caballero are tipped to have the best chance of qualifying in the lightweight women's double sculls (LW2x), after finishing fourth in the last Asian Rowing Championships and eighth in the Rowing World Championships.
Three Asian berths will be up for grabs in the three-day qualifier.
"Kung matuloy 'yung training ng mga atleta, 'yugn foreign coach na susuporta and, of course, 'yung suporta ng sponsors, I'm really confident that we can qualify," said Gregorio.
Nievarez, meanwhile, is set to see action in the lightweight men's single sculls (LM1x), where a total of five Olympic berths are at stake for Asia.
Benjie Tolentino was the last Filipino rower to qualify in the Olympics. He finished 18th in the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, in the men's single sculls.
Both Delgaco and Caballero expressed optimism about their chances especially with the support coming from the PRA.
"Walang imposible sa sports, basta determined lang ang lahat ng mga atleta," said Caballero. "Exposure and continuous training, walang imposible na mag-qualify sa Olympics.
"Halos lahat, nagpupursige para sa qualifier," Delgado added. "Ang hiling lang po namin is exposure at mabigyan lang kami ng magandang suporta."
Gregorio vowed to extend all the necessary help the association can extend to the Filipino paddlers especially with a new set of officers coming in.
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