Get to know the Philippines' top Olympic hopefuls

Carlos Yulo of Philippines ddelivers his gold-winning performance at the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships n Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Carlos Yulo of Philippines ddelivers his gold-winning performance at the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships n Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Team Philippines plans to send a large delegation to Tokyo 2020 - with more than 20 to 40 athletes already labelled by national sports organisations as potential candidates for the Games.

Amidst the lockdown in the country, the Philppine Olympic Committee (POC) have requested the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to allow athletes who are vying for spots in Tokyo 2020 to officially return to training.

Some athletes who have qualified for the Games have been able to continue their training overseas, whilst others are doing home workouts on home soil. All are now waiting in the wings whilst keeping Tokyo 2020 as their main focus, training harder than ever with one thing in mind: to bring glory to their country.

Here are some of the athletes who may be able to crack that first Olympic gold for the Philippines.

Carlos Yulo

Carlos Yulo made history by winning a gold medal in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, which qualified him directly for Tokyo 2020.

As the first South-east Asian male world champion, Yulo is currently in Tokyo finishing his six-month training camp, according to Cynthia Carrion, Gymnastics Association of the Philippines as reported in Manila Times in late June.

Whilst training under the tutelage of Japanese coach KUGIMIYA Munehiro, Yulo is also focussing on studies. The Filipino athlete, who is fluent in Japanese, is now attending Teikyo University as a college student.

Before COVID-19 hit Japan, Yulo had been acquiring new skills to prepare for the Olympics. He wants to veer away from his usual floor routine and has promised to make a 'surprise' move in the Olympic Games. We might not need to wait to see what he has in store as he is showing off some moves in this video.

View this post on Instagram

Twistin 😬 #tbsunday

A post shared by Carlos Edriel Yulo (@c_edrielzxs) on

Ernest 'EJ' Obiena

Pole vaulter Obiena qualified for Tokyo 2020 when he beat the qualifying standards during the Salto Con L'asta in Chiari, Italy - his personal best of 5.81m, and just .01 of the Olympic benchmark of 5.80.

Weeks before, Obiena had gone on a short social media hiatus to focus on his preparations for Tokyo 2020. The 24-year-old is currently based in Italy and training under his Serbian coach Vitaly Petrov, who was the mentor of Olympic legend Sergey Bubka.

Now Obiera, whose training has been temporarily halted, sees the positives of the postponement.

"There’s always an opportunity, even in a crisis," he told Spikes.worldathletics.org.

"It’s more time to prepare, a chance for me to be better when the Olympics come in 2021."

He is now eyeing to take part in the Monaco leg of the Diamond League series on 14 August if all goes according to plan. In the meantime, he is back in training.

“The track is open now, so I can train normally,’’ said the pole vaulter. “In a way, it’s a blessing…because I’ll have the time to really build up again and get better," he told Sports.inquirer.net

Eumir Marcial

The Filipino boxer, who punched his Olympic ticket last March in the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifying tournament in Amman, Jordan, now wants to turn pro as he has been receiving offers from promoters and managers.

As pro-fighters are now allowed to compete at Tokyo 2020, the 24-year-old boxer will not let this become a distraction on his quest to win Olympic gold - the dream that he has been working on for over eight years.

"To everybody who offered me promotional and managerial deals, I'm guaranteeing all of you that you are not a distraction in my preparation. In fact, you are one of the reasons why I worked hard to win in the Olympic qualifier," he told Rappler.com.

"One thing is certain – I will fight in the Olympics and I will give everything – till the last drop of blood and sweat – just for us to win that coveted Olympic gold."

According to Ricky Vargas, head of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), Marcial has a very good chance of bringing home the crown.

"We know that we have the boxers to qualify this Olympics and we have a chance to win. I think that Eumir (Marcial) has a 90 per cent chance to bring home a medal and 80 per cent chance for the gold. That’s good enough," Vargas said.

Irish Magno

Another boxer who scored an Olympic berth during the qualifiers in Amman, Jordan is Irish Magno. The boxer who won against Indian competitor in the women's flyweight dvision via a unanimous decision couldn't contain her excitement after qualifying for the Games.

“I always listen to my coaches and they saw the fight of my opponent last time that’s we studied it. And here’s the result,” Magno told Philstar.com.

She is the first Filipina boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games.

And whilst she needs to wait one more year for her Olympic debut, the boxer is bent on keeping fit even during quarantine.

Hidilyn Diaz

The weightlifter who managed to snag a silver medal in Rio 2016, still needs to wait to qualify for the Games. She has been forced to stay in Malaysia where she has been continuing her training since March.

Diaz is currently the no. 4 in the women's 55kg event. She was one qualifier away from sealing her Olympic spot, before the pandemic happened. And with one more year to go before what would have been her fourth Olympic Games, Diaz is trying to stay positive.

She remains focussed on her goal of achieving gold for the country.

"We know that it's hard to stay motivated), but I go back to why I am doing this. [It's] because I love the Philippines and I love weightlifting," said Diaz in the Philippine Olympic Committee's (POC) Olympic Day webinar in June.