Brand-new Aquatics Stadium hosts national swimming championships

NEW CLARK CITY, Tarlac -- The country's national swimmers tested the 2,000-seater Aquatics Stadium here with the hosting of the first Philippine National Open Swimming Championships, which will be held until September 3.

In the first day of the event, numerous events were contested and will become the deciding factor for qualification in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games as members of Team Philippines.

Overall, Fil-foreign tankers came up big as they are almost assured of securing a berth in the biennial sporting meet.

Fil-Australian Luke Gebbie emerged victorious in the men's 50-meter freestyle, almost beating the 22.62-second record by 28 milliseconds. Fil-Am Remedy Rule meanwhile clinched in the women's counterpart.

Aldo Batungbacal won gold in the men's 1500-meter freestyle while Rosalee Santa Ana breezed through the women's 800-meter freestyle.

Thomas Peregrina narrowly beat Jessie Lacuna by 0.17 seconds in the men's 200-meter individual medley, while Xiandi Chua bagged the gold in the distaff division.

Philip Sahagun clinched first in the men's 200-meter backstroke, while Chloe Isleta notched first in the women's division, narrowly beating Roxanne Yu.

PSI Pres. Lani Velasco shared that Filipino swimmers have been uplifted after using the stainless steel pool for the very first time. "Upon getting out of the pool, we could only see smiles on their faces," said Velasco.

BCDA Pres. Vivencio Dizon said after the SEA Games and ASEAN Paragames are finished January 2020, the venue will be privatized to ensure the maintenance of the FINA-accredited facilities, which boasts the first fast pool in the country.

Filipino athletes will soon call the facilitiestheir new home, with the Philippine Sports Commission set to relocate the National Training Center in NCC next year.

However, as a mixed use area, the venue may be rented by anybody who wishes to use it.

If people wish to watch aquatics and athletics for the SEA Games, Dizon said that a six-lane access road from SCTEx to the venue will be opened by October, with participating athletes and several journalists testing the road Saturday morning.

Point-to-point buses will also be servicing to and from various areas in Luzon.

Velasco also shared that the federation intends to provide foreign swimmers, specifically from the Western Hemisphere, the Aquatics Center as a training ground for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"We'll bring [the swimmers] over here so that our swimmers will be inspired (with their presence]," said the NSA head.

Capas Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan also revealed that the municipality and the Department of Education made a bid to host the ASEAN School Games set for December 2020.

He hopes that that the inauguration of the new facility will help turn Capas from the sleepy town etched in history as the final stop of the Death March into a new hub of progress.

Meanwhile, the final leg of the 2019 Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) weekly relay series will be held at the nearby Athletics Stadium tomorrow, September 1.

The event will also be the first staged in the 20.000-seater stadium.