WEIGHTLIFTER Erleen Ann Ando was one of the latest Filipino athletes to have qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. — ERLEEN ANN ANDO FB PAGE

THE number of Filipino athletes qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo has steadily been increasing of late and could actually reach at least 19, said Philippine Sports Commission commissioner Ramon Fernandez.

The PSC official shared their projection in his session on the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday where he talked about the developments in the country’s preparation for the Olympics and Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam later this year.

“We have officially 12 athletes who have qualified but based on our projections we could have at least 19 or more. We are really hoping to send more athletes to the Olympics,” said Mr. Fernandez.

“These athletes have been stepping up their game for the last two years at the highest level as they compete at top-level competitions worldwide. I think we could break some records as to the number of athlete delegation for the Tokyo Games,” he added.

Currently, 12 athletes have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, one shy of the total delegation which saw action in the Summer Games in Rio, Brazil, in 2016.

They are pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Caloy Yulo, boxers Eumir Felix Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, weightlifters Hidilyn Diaz and Erleen Ann Ando, rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, and shooter Jayson Valdez.

More are expected to qualify, Mr. Fernandez said, coming from golf, judo, athletics and swimming, among others.

The most recent who has qualified is Mr. Valdez, 25, who welcomed the news last weekend.

He earned qualification for the Summer Games in the men’s air rifle 10-meter event through the quota system implemented by the International Shooting Sports Federation.

Mr. Valdez became the latest Filipino shooter to qualify for the Olympics after Paul Brian Rosario who competed in men’s skeet as a wild card entry in London 2012. He made the minimum qualifying scores for his participation in the World Cup and Asian qualifying tournaments.

Mr. Fernandez said as the Olympics draws near, they at the PSC continue to prepare for what is expected from them for the country’s Tokyo bid, notwithstanding the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“I think the Olympics is definitely happening so we continue to prepare. It has been challenging especially during this time with the pandemic, but we’re trying to address everything,” he said, including having the athletes fully vaccinated in time for the Games.

The rescheduled Olympic Games happens from July 23 to Aug. 8. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo