This must be the longest countdown held for the Olympics.
Originally scheduled in the summer of 2020, the Tokyo Olympics will be held a year later – from July 23 to August 8 this year.
Even with the outcome of recent COVID-19 interventions, including widespread vaccinations still uncertain, the Japanese government has been upbeat and extremely resilient. They are firmly determined to ensure that the Olympics, making a return to Tokyo more than five decades since the 1964 edition, will finally take place this summer.
It’s under three months away, and may we ask: What is the status of preparations of our Filipino athletes?
So far, there are six Filipinos who have qualified for the Tokyo Games.
They are bannered by the country’s biggest chance at landing its first-ever Olympic gold: Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who bagged the silver in the Rio de Janeiro Games five years ago.
Then there’s world champion Carlos Yulo, a pocket dynamo of a gymnast with the heart of a lion, whose aerial spins on the floor exercise could finally land the country its first gold. He will also be the country’s first gymnast since 1968 to see action in the Olympics.
Ernest John Obiena has been based in Europe for the past few years, competing with high-caliber vaulters, while shattering local and Asian records along the way.
Then, of course, there are our reliable and intrepid boxers.
Middleweight Eumir Marcial, who turned professional middle of the pandemic last year, is one of the top picks in his weight class, and there, too, is the 22-year-old Carlo Paalam, who used to work the streets of Cagayan de Oro, scavenging for whatever could be recycled from garbage.
Then there is Irish Magno, 29, who qualified for the Tokyo Games through the Asia-Oceania qualifiers in Jordan in March 2020.
There could be more Filipinos competing in Tokyo this summer. Still set to figure in qualifiers are the basketball teams in the 5×5 and 3×3, as well as the golf, karate and taekwondo contingents.
Undoubtedly, all our Filipino Olympians are ready. There is no doubt that all of them will be aiming at no less than a gold medal – a first for the Philippines since it started participating in the Olympics in 1924, or nearly a hundred years ago.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has requested for a P182-million budget from Congress to foot the expenses needed to keep our athletes in tip-top shape.
PSC Chairman William Ramirez said it is imperative to continue supporting the training and preparation of the athletes to make them truly competitive.
With the Tokyo Olympics finally on the horizon, the country deserves the opportunity to find joy and hope in the fate that awaits our athletes in the games.
An Olympic gold medal could be a golden vaccination for all our fears, apprehension, and loneliness – that amid all the loneliness and difficulties in our lives because of COVID-19, we could find limitless joy in the triumph of our Filipino athletes in the Tokyo Olympics.