AS OF July 2, 19 gallant Filipino athletes will carry the country's dream of winning the long-sought yet elusive gold medal as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opens on July 23.
That's only 20 days to go for the greatest show on earth to unfold amid the threat of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
This will be the biggest Filipino contingent since 2004 when the Philippines sent 16 athletes to Athens followed by 15 in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 11 in the 2012 London Olympics, and 13 in the Rio Olympics.
We all are rooting for Ernest John Obiena (men's pole vault), Carlos Yulo (men's artistic gymnastics), Eumir Felix Marcial (men's boxing middleweight), Irish Magno (women's boxing flyweight), Davao pride Nesthy Petecio (women's boxing featherweight), Carlo Paalam (men's boxing flyweight), Hidilyn Diaz (women's weightlifting 55kg), Cris Nievarez (men's rowing single sculls), Kurt Barbosa (men's taekwondo -58kg), Margielyn Didal (women's street skateboard), Elreen Ando (women's weightlifting 64kg), Jayson Valdez (men's shooting air rifle 10m), Juvic Pagunsan (men's golf), Kristina Knott (women's athletics 200m), Kiyomi Watanabe (women's judo -63kg), Bianca Pagdanganan (women's golf), Yuka Saso (women's golf), Remedy Rule (women's swimming 200m butterfly), and Luke Gebbie (men's swimming 50m and 100m freestyle).
While Diaz is competing in her fourth Olympics, the rest are just making their debut in the world's quadrennial sports spectacle.
Remember their names and the sacrifices they made to reach this elite stage. The challenges they faced to qualify for the Olympics were made tougher due to the mobility constraints caused by the global pandemic. Training preparations of most athletes were delayed and some underwent bubble-like trainings only this year.
They all dared to dream and fought the hardest to win the coveted Olympic slots come hell or high water. They gave everything they've got to achieve what so many athletes failed to accomplish.
Other Filipino Olympic hopefuls in windsurfing, fencing, 3X3 men's basketball, cycling, surfing, karate, archery, and men's basketball all failed in their qualifying events.
The Philippines' canoe-kayak bets withdrew from the Asian Olympic Qualifiers set in Thailand after a member of the delegation tested positive for Covid-19.
Our 19 Tokyo Olympians, aside from hurdling their respective competitions, will also have to undergo daily Covid-19 testing but they won't have to undergo quarantine.
Let's all rally behind our Olympians and pray for their safety and protection. May they go all out as they compete for the flag and country. May God bless all of you!
A special shoutout to Davao's very own Nesthy Alcayde Petecio and to my International Churches of Christ (ICOC) Fil-Am sister Kristina Knott.