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The number of athletes that will carry the Philippine flag in the Rio Olympics could snowball to as much as 15 in the event boxing delivers the heavy blows and a few others step up to the plate heading into the final days of qualification.
Chief of Mission Joey Romasanta said yesterday that boxing looks primed for a strong showing in the last qualifying event next month, while swimming, golf, athletics and weightlifting remain in contention for slots to the Aug. 5 to 21 sportsfest.
So far, the Philippines has seven qualifiers in Eric Cray and Marestela Torres of athletics, Rogen Ladon (light-flyweight) and Charly Suarez (lightweight) of boxing, Ian Lariba of table-tennis, Kirstie Elaine Alora of taekwondo and Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting.
Waiting on the wings are Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que of golf, Jasmine Alkhaldi, Jessie Lacuna, Josh Hall and Roxanne Yu, Mario Fernandez and Felix Eumir Marcial of boxing, Kyla Richardson and EJ Obiena of athletics and Nestor Colonia of weightlifting.
Romasanta points to Fernandez (bantamweight) and Marcial (junior-welterweight) as solid contenders when the Final World Olympic Qualifying takes place from June 14 to 26 in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Five berths are up for grabs in Fernandez and Marcial’s respective weight classes, making it a lot easier for the last-minute additions to make the Olympic grade.
Tabuena and Que are currently within the top 60 in the world (Olympic rakings) but Romasanta feels that Tabuena has the inside track owing to his lofty rating (37th). Que is currently at 52nd spot and has to keep himself busy and competitive to maintain his standing.
The final makeup will be known by July, according to Romasanta, hopeful that the Rio batch will surpass the number of athletes who made it to London in 2012 (11) and Beijing in 2008 (15).