POC reaffirms support to athletes as it celebrates Olympic Day

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IN LINE with the celebration of Olympic Day this week, the Philippine Olympic Committee reaffirmed its support to Filipino athletes especially during these trying times with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an online press conference on Monday organized by the POC in celebration of Olympic Day, body president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said the POC is downright working to ensure that athletes are looked after accordingly despite the myriad of challenges at hand.

Among the concerns they are looking into, Mr. Tolentino said, is the possibility of select athletes, particularly those who have qualified for the Olympic Games and are still angling to make it there, to resume training albeit under strict health and safety protocols.

Mr. Tolentino, also the president of the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines (PhilCycling), said the POC will try to help as well in restoring the full amount of the athletes’ monthly allowances, which were recently cut as part of the government coffers was rechanneled to the fight against COVID-19.

The POC president said they have reached out to the pertinent government agencies, including the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), on the possibility of resuming training for athletes vying for a spot in the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.

This is to allow the athletes enough time to condition their body and prepare for the eventual reopening of qualifying tournaments later this year or in early 2021.

“We need to start preparing now for the resumption of overseas tournaments where athletes will compete in. We should allow them (athletes) to train, especially those seeking to qualify for the Olympics,” said Mr. Tolentino, who is also a sitting congressman, representing the eighth district of Cavite.

“We’re discussing the possibility of resuming training with the PSC and IATF,” he added.

Currently, four Filipino athletes have already qualified for the Tokyo Games, namely, EJ Obiena (pole vault), Carlos Yulo (gymnastics) and Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno (boxing).

Those still trying to qualify include Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting), skateboarder Margielyn Didal, BMX rider Danny Caluag, cyclist Ariana Dormitorio, boxer Nesthy Petecio, taekwondo jin Pauline Lopez and karateka Junna Tsukii.

Mr. Tolentino said they are hoping that these athletes, along with others, be allowed to train once again although with safety a primary consideration.

As for the athletes’ allowances, Mr. Tolentino said it was unfortunate such had to be done, especially since Philippine sports was coming from a high last year after the country bagged the overall title in the 30th Southeast Asian Games held here.

Because of the ongoing battle against COVID-19, a large chunk of the budget of the PSC from the government was realigned to efforts addressing the effects of the pandemic.

This, along with limited remittances from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), where the PSC also gets funding for its operations, forced the sports agency to make the hard decision to slash what athletes get monthly as allowances.

Mr. Tolentino said in his capacity as well as a member of the House of Representatives, he will ask Congress to give back the money intended for the athletes so as to have the latter get by amid the pandemic.

“As a member of the House of Representative, we in Congress will try to give back the amount that was taken from the PSC and have the athletes included as beneficiaries in the extension of the Bayanihan Act,” he said.

Meanwhile, unlike previous years, Olympic Day, which celebrates the birth of the modern Olympic Games and is commemorated every June 23, in the country will largely be observed online.

The POC has lined up a series of activities until June 30 in celebration of the event built around the theme of “Move. Learn. Discover.” — Michael Angelo S. Murillo