The surreal atmosphere still amazes rowing coach Ed Maerina even after 33 years since he last set foot in the Olympic stage.
This time, he is not competing, but coaching one of the country’s promising athletes in the sport, Cris Nievarez.
Maerina said modern technology changed the level of competition since he saw action in the 1988 Seoul Olympics in the same event that Nievarez is competing – the men’s single sculls.
“Mula equipment, training, sports science, physiology doctor hanggang sports nutrition, malaki talaga ang difference,” Maerina said.
The country tries its best to catch up with powerhouse nations in the sport from Europe, and Maerina is thankful to have the support both of the government and the private sector in providing Filipino rowers all the necessary equipment and exposure to be at par with foreign counterparts.
Nievarez’s qualification just showed that the country has what it takes to compete side-by-side with the best in the world. The 21-year-old Antimonan, Quezon native is only the third Filipino to qualify for the Games, with Benjie Tolentino competing at the 2000 Sydney.
Having been there and done that, Maerina continues to give advice to Nievarez even beyond the technicalities of the sport.
“Lagi ko lang sinasabi sa kanya na mag-focus lang siya sa training nya, na ibigay lagi ang best nya. At kahit nakarating na siya sa Olympics, huwag siyang magbabago,” Maerina said.
Nievarez will be the first Filipino to plunge into action in the Heats Friday morning, hours before the stage officially opens.