OLYMPICS PREPS. Chef de Mission to the Tokyo Olympics Nonong Araneta (2nd from left) discusses the country's preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games during a press conference at the Philippine Sports Commission in Manila on Tuesday (March 10, 2020). Araneta said Team Philippines might go to Tokyo two weeks before the Games to meet quarantine requirements amid the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak. Philippine Sports Commission chief of staff Marc Velasco (left) and Philippine Olympic Committee secretary-general Edwin Gastanes (3rd from left) also attended the media briefing. (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

MANILA – Team Philippines will fly early to Tokyo, if need be, to avoid possible disqualification and to meet quarantine and health check requirements in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak, sports officials said on Tuesday.

In a press briefing at the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) in Manila, chef de mission to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Nonong Araneta and Philippine Olympic Committee secretary general, lawyer Ed Gastanes, said Filipino athletes might leave for the Tokyo Olympics at least two weeks earlier than expected.

Gastanes and Araneta also provided the media with updates on the qualification tournaments of the Filipino athletes despite the spread of the coronavirus.

“Walang (There is still no) official cancelation, walang (no) official postponement, so we’re preparing as if it will go on as planned,” Araneta said, noting that they are in constant communication with national sports associations on their preparations.

PSC chief of staff Marc Velasco said the government sports body has already discussed the concerns of the Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes.

“The (PSC) Board’s consensus is we might send them two weeks ahead of their planned qualification tournament just to ensure that we are doing our quarantine procedure,” Velasco said.

Araneta shared the difficulty of the qualification process, considering that Olympic qualifying tournaments have been canceled due to the deadly virus.

“Ang concern ko actually is that, kahapon kasi, di ba sa dyaryo, yung Philippines may travel ban, yung ibang countries may travel ban coming from the Philippines. Sa ngayon, two countries pa lang yan, Kuwait at Qatar, baka pati yung ibang countries pa in which we have a qualifying event (Our concern is that, like yesterday, some countries issued a travel ban on people coming from the Philippines. Two countries, Kuwait and Qatar, did. Other countries where we have a qualifying event might also issue a ban),” he said.

A total of 64 athletes from archery, athletics, swimming, basketball, boxing, cycling, canoe-kayak, fencing, golf, gymnastics, judo, karate, rowing, skateboarding, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, weightlifting, and wrestling have been training hard to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Out of the 64, some 18 athletes have a higher-than-average chance of booking a ticket to the largest quadrennial games this year, according to Araneta.

“Sa swimming may dalawa; athletics may apat; boxing sana apat pa; sa judo we have two or three; sa golf three. So that’s 16. Sa skateboarding, dalawa. So ‘yan yung mga tsansa (We have two in swimming; four in athletics; hopefully another four in boxing; in judo, we have two or three; also three in golf. So that’s 16. In skateboarding, two have chances),” he said.

So far, pole vault star EJ Obiena, gymnastics sensation Carlos Yulo, and boxer Eumir Marcial have booked tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo will host the most prestigious Summer Olympics from July 24 to August 9 this year. (PR)