Meet the four Pinoys already qualified for the Rio Olympics

Adriel Allen Mercado on Apr 04, 2016 03:58 PM
Meet the four Pinoys already qualified for the Rio Olympics
SEA Games gold medalist Eric Cray will be representing the Philippines in Olympic track and field

In pursuit of Olympic glory, the Philippines has been sending competitors to the world’s grandest sporting event as early 1924. Save for the 1980 Games that the country chose to boycott along with the U.S., the Philippines has always had representation in the Olympics. In fact, the archipelago was the first Southeast-Asian nation to partake in the games—and also the first to take home a medal. After nearly a century since it first joined the games, the Philippines has collected two silvers and seven bronzes in total. But out of all the approximately 400 athletes that have step foot in the quadrennial event, not one has been able to bring home the elusive gold.

In the London 2012 Games, the Philippines flew eleven athletes who participated in eight sports. None were successful in pocketing even a bronze. This year, the country is planning to send a larger delegation, targeting around 15-20 participants. A few have already punched their ticket to Rio later this year. Below are the athletes who will represent the Philippines in Brazil later this year.

 

HIDILYN DIAZ -Weightlifting

 

Hidilyn Diaz will be joining the Olympics for the third straight time, as she has represented the Philippines in the 2008 and 2012. She is the first female weightlifter from the Philippines to compete in the international event, and only the second weightlifter overall to do so. Her 2008 stint was as a wild card pick by the Philippine Weightlifting Association. Then a 17-year-old, the Zamboanga native was entered in the women’s 58-kg class. While Diaz placed 11th out of 12 weightlifters, the strongwoman was praised for performing exceedingly well for her age and was viewed as an extremely promising athlete. She’s gone a long way from lifting branches of trees, her first training objects after being introduced to the sport at the tender age of eleven.

Diaz would follow up her Olympic debut with another shot four years later (on top of being chosen as the flagbearer during the opening ceremony). This time around, she made it to the games by passing the qualifying tournaments and was even ranked ninth prior to the event. During the actual contest, Diaz lifted a personal best of 97kg, but she was unable to finish her 118-kg clean and jerk after three tries. This earned her with a “did not finish” (DNF) for the event.

Now a 25-year-old, Diaz is banking on her third time being the charm. Zamboanga’s pride isn’t simply relying on luck, though, as she clinched the Olympic berth after scoring three bronze medals in the International Weightlifting Federation World Championship held in Houston last year. Diaz dropped down to the 53-kg division from her old 58-kg weight class, which yielded her better results all throughout 2015 (including the gold medal in the 1st Southeast Asian Weightlifting Championship). This may be the year that the Pinay weightlifter finally be able to snatch a medal in the Olympics.
 

 

ROGEN LADON and CHARLY SUAREZ - Boxing

(Rogen Ladon/ Charly Suarez)

 

Historically, this has been the sport in which the Philippines has performed well. Of the nine medals the country has won in the Olympics, five—including its pair of silvers--came from boxing. In fact, the last time the nation has medaled for a non-boxing event was in 1936. This year, two boxers have qualified in the games—light flyweight Rogen Ladon and lightweight Charly Suarez.

Rogen Ladon is the first Filipino fighter to clinch a 2016 Olympic berth. The 22-year-old from Negros Occidental gained his spot also by posting a silver-medal triumph in the Asia and Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualifying Tournament. He won via unanimous decision in the semifinal match, but narrowly lost in the final match because of the judges’ split decision in favor of his opponent. Ladon was so close to a gold medal, but he’ll have another crack at gold come the Olympic Games.

Joining Rogen Ladon is Charly Suarez, who also notched a silver medal in the Asia and Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The lightweight pugilist came up short from gold as two of the three judges scored the final match of the tournament in favor of Mongolia’s Dorjnyambuugiin Otgondalai. Still, the 27-year-old Davao del Norte native’s performance was enough to qualify for Rio and be ranked as one of the top three fighters in his weight division. His past achievements include a silver in the 2014 Asian Games (Dorjnyambuugiin Otgondalai beat him for gold) and gold-medal wins in the 2009 and 2011 Southeast Asian Games. Adding an Olympic medal to his resume is his chief objective as of the moment.

 

ERIC CRAY - Track and field

Representing the Philippines in athletics is Eric Cray. Born to a Filipina mother and an American father in Olongapo, the 27-year-old sprinted to an Olympic slot by bagging a bronze medal in 60-meter event the 2016 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships. In the past, the Filipino-American has also won gold for the country in the 2015 and 2013 Southeast Asian Games and has represented his mother’s homeland at the 2013 World Championships in Athletics. On top of his 2015 SEA Games victory, he set a new national and games record in the 400-meter hurdles and was dubbed as the fastest man in the region after his triumph in the 100-meter dash. Although based in Texas, Cray, who holds dual citizenship, followed his mother’s wish to see him to compete for the Philippines instead of the U.S.

At this point, there are qualifiers that have yet to be played, including the one for basketball. Expecting that more athletes would be joining the Olympic roster, the nation once again resumes its mission for another medal. It’s been exactly twenty years since Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco’s silver-medal finish in the Atlanta Games. It’s up to the latest crop of Filipino athletes to break this two-decade dry spell come August. 

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