By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FOR the second consecutive year the Philippines will be competing at the Olympic Winter Games, a development that is being viewed by local sports officials with great significance as they deem it as the country “expanding its horizons.”
Set to compete at the 2018 Winter Games, which begins today in PyeongChang, South Korea, are Filipino-American alpine skier Asa Miller and figure skater Michael Martinez.
Seventeen-year-old Miller is representing the country in the Games for the first time while Mr. Martinez is doing a second tour of duty after making history last time around in Sochi in 2014 as the first-ever competitor from Southeast Asia.
In the Winter Games once again, Philippine chef de mission Tom T. Carrasco, Jr. said they are taking it with much excitement and hope for the opportunities it gives to the country and Filipino athletes.
“Right now there are 15 disciplines and 102 events in the Games. What the International Olympic Committee has done is to open the Winter Games to all countries, something we welcome as this provides opportunities for countries like us, Malaysia and Singapore, among others, to compete,” said Mr. Carrasco in an interview with BusinessWorld last week during a special ceremony for the PyeongChang Games at the South Korean Embassy in Taguig City.
“In 2014, we had only one participant and to have two now from a tropical country is very significant because it shows we are expanding our horizons and going to the Winter Games. This is apart from getting in touch with our Filipino-foreigner athletes and looking at them as possible sources of talent down the line,” added Mr. Carrasco, who is also an official of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
But while they are happy and excited to compete in the Winter Games, Mr. Carrasco admitted that they are not expecting too much, saying they are looking more at the country’s participation this year as still part of the early steps in the Philippines’ Winter Games journey.
“We’re not really expecting much but what we are hoping to get from it is the experience and long-term development of our athletes especially those like Asa. We are actually surprised that we have an athlete competing in Alpine skiing. Hopefully they could inspire more young athletes to develop their talent and compete for the country,” the chef de mission said.
Fresh from his participation in the World Junior Championships in Sweden last year, Portland, Oregon-based Miller is said to be excited and raring to represent the country for the first time in the Games.
“Asa will represent the Philippines for the first time in the Olympics. He is very excited to perform and show what he is capable of doing,” said Jezreel Aperal, a representative of the Philippine Ski Federation, in a separate interview.
“As a federation we are proud to see one of our athletes in the Winter Games as we have been working hard to have them compete in international competitions,” he added.
Like Mr. Carrasco, Mr. Aperal said they welcome the Philippines in the Winter Games for the second straight year as it bodes well for the future of ice-based sports in the country.
“Definitely it (ice-based sports) is growing. The Philippine diaspora all over the world is vibrant and more Filipinos abroad are connecting with the motherland. So there is a lot of promise,” he said.
For the 2018 Winter Olympics happening from Feb. 9 to 25, PyeongChang will be the stage for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and most snow sports. Alpine speed events will take place in Jeongseon, and all ice sports will be competed in the coastal city of Gangneung.
Locally the PyeongChang Games events will be aired over ESPN5.