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Team PH touches down on Rio

Six of 12 Filipino athletes in Olympic Village; rest fly in next.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Members of the Philippine team, including six of the 12 athletes who qualified to the Rio Olympics, arrived in this populous city Saturday afternoon from a back-breaking journey from Manila.

They made it to Rio safe and sound.

Flag-bearer Ian Lariba of table tennis led the small batch of Pinoy athletes who flew in after an eight-hour flight from Manila to Dubai, a three-hour stopover and then a 14-hour trip to Rio.

It was a tiring 25-hour journey that can turn any ordinary person upside down.

Joining the trip were athletes Elaine Alora of taekwondo, Jessie Khing Lacuna of swimming, Marestella Torres of track and field and Hidilyn Diaz and Nestor Colonia of weightlifting.

Diaz and Torres are in their third straight Olympics while Lacuna is in his second stint in the Summer Games.

The rest of the Filipino qualifiers will arrive in Rio in the coming days. They are boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, who are training in the United States; runner Eric Cray, who’s in Houston; swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi, who’s flying in from Hawaii; marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, who’s still in Japan; and golfer Miguel Tabuena, still competing this week in the King’s Cup in Thailand.

Chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta and fellow Philippine Olympic Committee official Col. Jeff Tamayo, together with team physician Dr. Ferdinand Brawner accompanied the athletes and their coaches, including former SEA Games taekwondo king Kitoy Cruz, in Saturday’s flight.

From the airport, the Filipinos joined fellow delegates from Malaysia, Hong Kong and Uganda on a one-hour bus ride to the sprawling Athletes Village, a collection of high-rise condominiums with units that can fit as many as seven to eight persons.

This early, there are signs of poor construction, with leaking pipes and low water pressure, especially for those staying in the higher floors, and beds that maybe too small and less comfortable for some athletes.

The Filipinos are on the 11th floor of Building 2.

Romasanta said the issue will certainly be brought up during Sunday morning’s DRM (delegations registration meeting) and another one among the CDMs (chef-de-mission) of the 206 participating countries.

“The organizers will hear it from some delegates,” he said.

Despite jetlag, the Filipino athletes are expected to break sweat Sunday, their first full day in this city of around six million.

Alora, who will not see action until Aug. 20 or the eve of the closing ceremony, can’t wait to don her training uniform.

“We will train tomorrow,” said Alora.

Seeing action the day after the opening ceremony are Lariba, Ladon, Squarez and Lacuna, each one hoping to win a medal or move on to the succeeding rounds.