By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THEIR quest to book a spot in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, this year may be over but the Philippine Volcanoes are not losing hope that they would make their way eventually to the quadrennial sporting spectacle some day.
Fell short in the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic qualifiers held in November in South Korea, the Volcanoes admitted that it was a disappointing turn of events, especially since they were solidly in the mix.
“Our Olympic dream ended in November. We lost in the semifinals which practically shut us out of the next qualifying process. We were one win away and sure it was disappointing looking back at it,” said Jake Letts, former player and now general manager of the Philippine Rugby Football Union, Inc., in a recent interview.
“We have to make adjustments to our program. There are some things we could have done better. But overall you cannot fault the players’ efforts. Rugby Sevens is such a competitive sport. And so we move on,” he added.
The Philippine men’s rugby went as far as the semifinals of the 2019 Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Qualifying Tournament but bowed to Hong Kong, 26-0, relegating it to the battle for third where it also lost, 19-14, to China.
The Volcanoes finished fourth in the regional qualifying tournament, a rung short of advancing to the next phase.
The women’s team was also not fortunate to advance.
But despite failing to qualify, the men’s and women’s teams still ended last year on a positive note, winning gold and silver medals, respectively, in the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country hosted in December.
It is something they hope to build on and use as motivation as they prepare for tournaments ahead, including the Asian Games in 2022, Mr. Letts said.
“The SEA Games was positive both for the men and women’s teams. Moving forward we will continue with our programs. In 2020 we have four tournaments both men and women and we are going to prepare for the Asian Games with the SEA Games as a stepping stone,” the rugby federation official said.
Mr. Letts went on to say that they are happy with the direction that the sport of rugby is taking in the country
“For us putting the sport in a better place than we found it is important. It’s a new sport here and we’re going to have difficulties. The people before us did a good job in elevating the status of the sport in the country and now it is our job to add on to it and generate further interest in it. Hopefully we get to develop homegrown talents because rugby is one of the most played sports in the world. We want to show that rugby is continuing to grow in the country,” he said.
As to their Olympic dreams, Mr. Letts reiterated that they are not losing sight of it.
“The Olympic dream continues for us for sure. We are still a young nation as far as rugby is concerned. The teams we are playing against are playing it for 30 to 50 years already,” he said.
“So we really wanted to compete in 2020 but looking back maybe it is not yet our time. Maybe in the next four years will be more ready. In this sport, teams win or lose at any given day. In the qualifiers it was not our day. So we go back to the drawing board and find out what works and what doesn’t and use them to prepare better,” Mr. Letts added.