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No Yulo, no problem for POC

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF BAMBOL TOLENTINO/FB | POC president Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino (middle) joins the national athletes in a fun run that serves as a kickoff event for the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games.

TAGAYTAY CITY — Even without Olympian Carlos Yulo, the Philippine Olympic Committee remains positive over the chances of the national squad that will see action in the 19th Asian Games.

POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino yesterday said a lot of heroes are expected to emerge as they aim to surpass their production of four gold medals in the previous edition of the prestigious quadrennial meet that will be held in China for the third time from 23 September to 8 October.

The POC chief graced the Asian Games fun run held here on Monday.

Also in attendance were Asian Games deputy chief of mission Karen Caballero, Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee Human Resource department chief Chen Quifang, Olympic Council of Asia Media and Broadcast department director and OCA Projects chief Jeans Zhou Jian and OCA operations manager Wissam Trkmani.

Yulo, a veteran of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, was initially asked to join the Asian Games in a bid to jack up the country’s Asian Games production.

But the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines clarified that the 23-year-old wunderkind has to skip the continental event as he is already scheduled to see action in the 52nd FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championship from 30 September to 8 October in Antwerp, Belgium with the hopes of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

The POC chief eventually agreed, saying that there are still a lot of athletes who can bring glory to the country in the Asian Games.

“It’s okay. Of course, our goal is for Caloy to be in the Olympics. Not that the Asian Games is not a priority but to be in the Olympics is the primordial goal,” said Tolentino, who saw more than 500 participants run in the one kilometer, 3-km and 6-km events.

“Even without Caloy, we can still surpass our past gold medal tally.”

Powered by 272 athletes, the Philippines finished the previous Asian Games at the 19th spot with four gold, two silver and 15 bronze medals.

Golfer Yuka Saso was the star of the show as she cornered two gold medals while skateboarder Margielyn Didal and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz also contributed to the Filipinos’ golden harvest.

This time, Saso will no longer around as she opted to represent Japan in the international arena while promising fencer Maxine Esteban, who used to be the country’s top athlete in women’s foil event, also bolted out to join Ivory Coast.

But Diaz will be marching to the Asian Games oozing with confidence after winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo while fellow lifters Elreen Ando and Vanessa Sarno are also tipped to make heads turn following their strong performance in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games last month.

Aside from the lifters, judoka Kiyomi Watanabe is also expected to be part of the delegation as well as pole vaulter EJ Obiena, the Asian record-holder, and Filipino-Americans Eric Cray and Kristina Knott.

Boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial are also raring to prove themselves after stepping into the podium in the Summer Games in 2021.

Tolentino added that the fun run will surely raise the morale of the athletes as they head for the Asian Games.

“We are proud that the POC, Tagaytay City and the country have become part of this symbolic fun run that not only helps promote the Asian Games but also reiterates the Philippines’ very important and historic role why these very games were organized more than a century ago,” said Tolentino, expressing his gratitude to the athletes and coaches who joined the event.

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