Fellowship of the Rings: 19 athletes embark on a quest for gold in the Land of the Rising Sun

Published July 23, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

1.     EJ OBIENA (athletics) – Obiena, 25, became the first Filipino athlete to qualify to the Tokyo Olympics after hitting the Olympic pole vault standard of 5.81 meters in a Pole Vault meet in Chiara, Italy in 2019. Ranked No. 10 in the world, Obiena has significantly improved his season best to 5.87m at a Polish event early July, which also resets the national outdoor record. He finished fourth at the Bauhaus-Galan Wanda Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden last July 4 – a tournament that served as a preview of the Olympics. He has been based in Formia, Italy for the past years, training under Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.

2.     KRISTINA KNOTT (athletics) – Fil-American Knott, 25, clinched a spot to the Tokyo Olympics via universality place in the women’s 200 meters. She smashed the Southeast Asian Games record twice in a day in 2019 with 23.01sec, which is also the national mark. She is also best known to break Lydia De Vega-Mercado’s long-standing 33-year-old national record in the 100m with 11.27sec.

3.     CARLOS YULO (men’s gymnastics) – Yulo, 21, punched a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics after qualifying in the finals of the All-Around winning the historic gold medal in the floor exercise of the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. With his gold medal, he became the first Filipino and first male Southeast Asian to win in the world championships. He has been based in Japan for the past years, training under Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya.

4.     CRIS NIEVAREZ (rowing) – Nievarez, 21, earned a Tokyo Olympics berth by virtue of continental qualification in the men’s single sculls despite ranking ninth at the Asia Oceania Qualification Regatta in Tokyo, Japan last May. A native of Atimonan, Quezon, he is also a gold medalist in the men’s lightweight single sculls at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

5.     KURT BARBOSA (taekwondo) – Barbosa, 20, qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after winning in the men’s -58kgs semifinals of the Asian Taekwondo Qualification Tournament in Amman, Jordan last May. A last-second kick to Jordan’s Zaid Al-Halawani won him the match, 50-49, and the Olympic ticket. A student  of National University, he is also a gold medalist at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the men’s -54kgs.

6.     MARGIELYN DIDAL (skateboarding) – Didal, 22, secured an Olympic ticket through world rankings after ranking 13th in the world street event. The Cebuana native failed to directly qualify after falling short of a finals berth at the 2021 World Street Skateboarding Championships in Rome, Italy. She rose to fame after winning the gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games.

7.     HIDILYN DIAZ (weightlifting) – Diaz, 30, is the most veteran of the Filipino qualifiers to the Tokyo Olympics with a fourth straight appearance. She officially qualified in the women’s 55kgs after participating in the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan last April despite placing fourth overall. The 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist needed only to compete in the said tournament regardless of the outcome to secure a berth. She first saw action in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a wildcard entry.

8.     ELREEN ANDO (weightlifting) – Ando, 22, earned a Tokyo Olympics slot in the women’s 64kgs via continental allocation at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan last April. The Cebuana native placed third in the World Championships in Rome last year and made the cut by becoming the highest-ranked athlete in the International Weightlifting Federation Absolute Ranking list for her event in Asia.

9.     KIYOMI WATANABE (judo) – Fil-Japanese Watanabe, 24, secured an Olympic slot through Continental Quota in the women’s middleweight (63kgs) division. Currently ranked No. 41 in her weight class, the Cebuana boasts of a silver medal in the 2018 Asian Games.

10.  JAYSON VALDEZ (shooting) – Valdez, 25, earned an Olympic slot in the men’s air rifle 10-meter event through the quota system for surpassing the minimum qualifying score of 595. He is the first Filipino shooter to qualify to the Olympics since Paul Brian Rosario, who competed in the 2012 London Games. He is the son of three-time SEAG gold medalist Julius Valdez.

11.  JUVIC PAGUNSAN (golf) – Pagunsan, 43, clinched a spot in the Tokyo Olympics after placing 50th in the men’s Olympic rankings by the International Golf Federation (IGF). Only the top 60 players earned tickets. He bolstered his rankings last May after winning the Mizuno Open at the Japan Golf Tour. The last time a Filipino qualified in golf was in the 2016 Rio Games courtesy of Miguel Tabuena.

12.  YUKA SASO (golf) – Fil-Japanese Saso, 20, secured a spot to the Tokyo Olympics after placing ninth in the women’s Olympic rankings by the International Golf Federation (IGF). Only the top 60 players will compete in the Games. She took part in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, narrowly missing the medal podium after losing in the three-way playoff for silver and bronze medals. She won two gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games and turned professional late in 2019. Last June, she won the 2021 US Women’s Open, becoming the first Filipino to win the event and matching Inbee Park as the youngest tournament champion.

13.  BIANCA PAGDANGANAN (golf) – Pagdanganan, 23, earned a seat at the Tokyo Games after placing 42nd in the women’s Olympic rankings by the International Golf Federation (IGF). Only the top 60 players will compete in the Games. She rose to prominence along with Saso after winning the gold medal in the team event at the 2018 Asian Games. She also won the gold medal in individual and team events at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. She turned professional in 2020 and had a stellar rookie season in the Japan LPGA where she bagged back-to-back titles in the NEC Karuizawa Championships and the Nitori Ladies Golf Tournament. She finished ninth in the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA event.

14.  EUMIR MARCIAL (boxing) – Marcial, 25, booked a ticket to the Olympics after a quarterfinals victory in the men’s middleweight (75kgs) in the 2020 Asia Oceania Olympic Boxing Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan. He eventually won the gold medal in that event. Also a professional fighter under Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions, he has been training under Freddie Roach in the United States. He is a silver medalist at the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Russia.

15.  NESTHY PETECIO (boxing) – Petecio, 29, nabbed a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by virtue of highest standing in the women’s featherweight (57kgs). The Davao del Sur native won the 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship gold medal to become the second Filipina world boxing champion after Josie Gabuco.

16.  CARLO PAALAM (boxing) – Paalam, 22, nabbed a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by virtue of highest standing in the men’s flyweight class (52kgs). A native of Bukidnon, he won a gold medal at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games. His previous achievements also include gold medals at the ASTANA/President’s Cup in Kazakhstan in 2017, the 10th AIBA International Boxing Tournament and the first Thailand International Boxing Tournament in 2018.

17.  IRISH MAGNO (boxing) – Magno, 29, qualified to the Tokyo Olympics after winning their women’s flyweight division (52kgs) box-off with a Tajikistan foe at the Asia Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Amman, Jordan in 2020. The Iloilo native won silver medals at the 2015 and 2019 Southeast Asian Games and a bronze in the 2013 SEAG.

18.  LUKE GEBBIE (swimming) – Fil-Kiwi Gebbie, 24, earned a berth to the Tokyo Olympics through universality places after emerging the top male Filipino swimmer based on their International Swimming Federation (FINA) points this year. He will compete in the men’s 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle. He won one silver and one bronze at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

19.  REMEDY RULE (swimming) – Fil-Am Rule, 24, earned a berth to the Tokyo Olympics through universality places after emerging the top female Filipino swimmer based on their International Swimming Federation (FINA) points this year. A winner of three silver and two bronze medals at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, she will compete in the women’s 200-meter butterfly and 200m freestyle. 

 
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