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Philippines aims to qualify at least 10 more athletes for Tokyo Olympics

Mariano "Nonong" Araneta said that the Philippines is looking to send at least 16 athletes for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics this July.

Araneta, the country's chef de mission to the Summer Games, mentioned that there are at least ten more with a strong chance to represent the country in the world's biggest sporting event.

Six athletes have already qualified, namely pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Caloy Yulo, and boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio, and Carlo Paalam.

Araneta mentioned that Hidilyn Diaz is almost a shoo-in since she just needs to appear in the 2021 Asian Championships to held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from April 15-25.

Other candidates include golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan, who need to retain their top 60 rankings. Saso is currently at 22nd while Pagdanganan is 43rd in the Olympic golf rankings.

Also tipped to qualify are tracksters Kristina Knott and Eric Cray. Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe is also a strong candidate, as is karateka Junna Tsukii.

Moreover, multiple-time Olympian Jasmine Alkhaldi is expected to add to her appearances, plus one male swimmer.

Rounding out the list is skateboarder Margielyn Didal and marathon runner Christine Hallasgo.

Araneta also mentioned that training for most of the athletes are underway, except for the taekwondo team and Gilas Pilipinas Men pool, who are both training at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna. The Philippine Sports Commission recently suspended training in areas inside the NCR+ bubble due to the imposition of enhanced community quarantine from Mar. 28 to at least Apr. 4.

He added that there has been a request to allow the taekwondo trainees to continue performing since they are inside a bubble already.

"At this point, they should be allowed since they don't go out," Araneta told ESPN5.com.

The country's athletes are also set to be vaccinated with the Moderna mRNA shot, courtesy of billionaire Enrique Razon. Some have expressed apprehension, according to Araneta, since it may affect their performance.

"Let's see, since [vaccination] is not required in the Tokyo Olympics."