PH sports in 2023 ‘a major breakthrough, 2024 a tough challenge’ – POC

By Jean Malanum

January 4, 2024, 6:03 pm

<p>Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino <em>(Contributed photo)</em></p>

Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino has expressed his satisfaction with the country's performances on the international stage in 2023.

“From a scale of 1 to 10, I give Filipino athletes a high mark of 8.5 to 9 for 2023,” Tolentino told RP2 Sports Radio’s Headline Sports host Judith Caringal during a live interview on Wednesday afternoon.

“Yes, I’m very much contented—after breaking those records and bringing back the glory—all of those accomplishments were hard-earned, both by the athlete and their coaches and the stakeholders,” the mayor of Tagaytay City, Cavite added.

Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, the first Filipino to qualify for 2024 Paris Olympics, made record-breaking performances at the Hangzhou Asian Games and Cambodia Southeast Asian Games and a historic men’s pole vault silver at the world championships.

The national men’s basketball team, known as Gilas Pilipinas, pocketed the gold medal in Hangzhou, the first for the country since the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“But all these gold medals, these achievements belong to all of us, all Filipinos, all of those who prayed hard,” he said. “It was all about the athletes’ and Team Philippines’ dedication, motivation and inspiration.”

While last year was considered a successful one, Tolentino said this year will be a tough one for the Philippines with the Paris Olympics not far away.

“This will be a tough year for us, Paris is just around the corner. And before we get there, there are tough competitions for our athletes to qualify,” Tolentino said.

Obiena, Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist boxer Eumir Felix Marcial and gymnasts Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan have qualified for Paris and the Philippines can get more slots via universality in athletics and aquatics.

“It will be very good if we again have 19 Olympians, but if we don’t have those numbers, the focus will be on the podium. Hopefully, we haul more in Paris,” Tolentino said.

With the Philippines celebrating its centennial participation in the Olympics, Tolentino hopes to surpass Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo’s weightlifting gold medal, Nesty Petecio and Carlo Paalam’s boxing silver and Marcial’s bronze at the Tokyo Games.

“We’re not the only country preparing for Paris, everybody else is preparing hard for the Olympics. We need all the support—moral, financial, among others,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tolentino announced that Peter Joseph Groseclose, 16 (speed skating short track); Avery Uriel Balbanida, 14 (skiing, cross-country); and Laetaz Amihan Rabe, 14 (freeski slope style and freeski big air) will compete in the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1 in Gangwon, South Korea.

“I’m proud to announce their qualification and participation in Gangwon. We Filipinos have defied limitations and embraced the challenges of competing in winter sports through the years. We’re living in a tropical country, but our spirit simply knows no boundaries,” he said.

Other matters discussed by Tolentino during the interview were the International Olympic Committee's decision on allowing boxing icon and former Senator Manny Pacquiao to compete in Paris by March, construction of the country’s first indoor International Cycling Union-certified velodrome in Tagaytay City, POC Golf Cup Legislators Edition on March 13, and the ratification of the POC’s amended charter. (PNA)