The five-man Philippine rowing team left for Tokyo, Japan early Saturday, May 1, to vie for Olympic berths in the Asia Oceania Continental Qualification Regatta set May 5 to 7.
The team composed of Melcah Jean Caballero, Joanie Delgaco, Roque Abala Jr, Zuriel Sumintac and Cris Nievarez hopes to end the two-decade-old drought in the Olympics where the last rower to qualify was Benjie Tolentino at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Caballero and Delgaco will compete in the lightweight women’s double sculls, Nievarez in men’s single sculls, and Abala and Sumintac and the lightweight men’s double sculls where three tickets in the doubles events and five in the singles will advance to the Tokyo Olympics slated late July.
Head coach Ed Mayrina is optimistic of the players’ chances in the tournament as they have been training on and off for more than a year at the La Mesa Dam.
Mayrina said conditions at the venue are cold and windy, and the waves choppy, but the athletes are prepared for it.
“Sa Lamesa Dam kasi pag hapon maalon din. Doon ko sila tine-train kaya hindi naman maninibago mga atleta natin,” Mayrina said.
Strict health protocols will be observed in the tournament, with players getting swab tests a day before the competitions. Facemasks and social distancing will also be observed during land training, and strict training schedules of teams on Sunday and Monday will be implemented.
Mayrina said Japan, Iran, Hong Kong and South Korea are among the toughest competitors in the tournament, but he believes the Filipino rowers can pull off a surprise.
Caballero and Delgaco hope their golden success as a pair at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games will translate into the race. The same also holds for Nievarez.
Abala Jr. and Sumintac’s tandem will also be put to test.