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POC to prioritize Olympians if vaccine is ready

By Nick Giongco




Bambol questions Clint Aranas' qualification to run as president of POC, saying he lacks the required four-year term needed. (Nick Gionco)

REP. Bambol Tolentino

Filipino athletes who have earned berths to the Tokyo Olympics will be tops on the priority list of recipients once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available,\ according to the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) leadership.

POC president Bambol Tolentino said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum that was done online on Tuesday that there is going to be a mad rush in the event a vaccine is produced.

“Ilalaban natin. Priority ang sports because of the Olympics once a vaccine is produced. We can lobby for that. I am sure sports will be prioritized,” said Tolentino, who also represents the eighth district of Cavite.

“Hindi naman marami yan,” he said, admitting that the initial allocation of the vaccine will likely be hard-to-get because of the immense demand.

So far, the Philippines has four qualified athletes to the Tokyo Olympics that will now be played from July 23-Aug. 8 after being postponed owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

First to make the Olympic grade was Italy-based pole vaulter EJ Obiena. He was followed by world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno.

The POC expects the number to increase once the qualifying tournaments resume by January next year with lifter Hidilyn Diaz and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe on the brink of inclusion.

Still, Tolentino maintains that crucial in the Olympics future is the discovery of a vaccine.

“That will be the only solution (vaccine) for the Olympics to push through. It will be very risky if the Olympics push through without a vaccine,” said Tolentino, whose tactical genius enabled host Philippines to win the 2019 Southeast Asian Games overall crown.

With COVID19 still very much in the air, Tolentino is wary of seeing athletes go about their normal lives.

“Except for a few sports, there is still a high risk (of contracting) if we begin holding sports events,” said Tolentino.

“Personally, mahirap pa yung team competitions. Nakatakot pa. Hindi tayo ganun kadami ang testing natin. Nandyan pa lahat. Di pa nakikita yung mga asymptomatic. We can wait.”

As the search for a vaccine rages on, Tolentino feels staying behind closed doors, heeding the government’s call to remain at home and practicing proper hygiene and social distancing and are the best weapons to combat the virus.

“Ang gold medal natin ay iyung manatili tayong buhay,” Tolentino added.

The forum is sponsored by San Miguel Corp., Amelie Hotel, Braska Restaurant, PAGCOR and powered by Smart.