Nine more Filipino athletes are expected to make qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
The list will most likely be padded further after Cebuana weightlifter Elreen Ando joined four-time Olympian Hidilyn Diaz in formally earning a weightlifting slot to the quadrennial games.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino said this after he got a formal confirmation on the status of Ando and Diaz from the International Weightlifting Federation.
Tolentino, who is also the congressman representing the 8th district of Cavite, said he is waiting for official word from the International Golf Federation on the official status of newly crowned Women’s US Open champion Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan.
“Malaki ang chance ni Yuka Saso. Paglalaruan lang niya ang mga kalaban niya Olympics. May home advantage siya sa Japan. Iyung mga nakalaban niya sa US Open, ay iyun din ang kalaban niya,” said Tolentino.
Aside from the three golfers, Tolentino said two Filipino swimmers are seen to earn qualification slots, with Filipino-American sprinter Kristina Knott, and three others in karatedo and judo also making a strong bid to catch up as well.
Ando made qualification after claiming three medals in the Asian Weightlifting Championships last April in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Her participation and podium finishes allowed her snare a continental allocation slot.
Diaz, who is on her fourth stint to the Olympiad, formally earned her seat by merely joining the Tashkent event.
Ando is currently ranked no. 33 in the IWF Olympic rankings of the women’s 64 kg. class, while Diaz is at 22nd place in the 55-kg category.
There are now 11 official qualifiers to the Olympics from the Philippines, namely pole vaulter EJ Obiena, world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, skateboarder Margielyn Didal and weighlifters Diaz and Ando.
Pagunsan will surely make the cut to the games after winning the 2021 Mizuno Open championship two weeks ago, according to National Golf Association of the Philippines secretary general Bones Floro.
Pagunsan, Saso and Pagdanganan, according to Floro, will make the list of qualifiers because they are currently in the top 60 of the IGF’s Olympic rankings for men and women.
“I can safely say na malayo na silang matanggal. Sure na ‘yan,” said Floro.
The 19-year-old Saso went up to no. 9 this week, while the 23-year-old Pagdanganan is currently ranked no. 42, down by a notch in the women’s side.
Pagunsan is now at ranked no. 51 in the men’s division rankings that was updated this week.
Confirmation on the status of the three golfers will be known by June 22.