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Rower Cris Nievarez clinches spot in Tokyo Olympics to end PH's 21-year drought

Rower Cris Nievarez became the eighth Filipino to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, according to a confirmation from World Rowing on Monday.

Nievarez's qualification for the Men's Single Sculls (M1x) in this year's Olympiad ended a 21-year drought in the sport for the Philippines. Benjie Tolentino was the last Filipino to compete in rowing back in the 2000 Sydney Games.

Despite Nievarez placing ninth, the Philippines qualified as its rank was pulled up by other countries that had a higher ranking in other events. Per the Universality rule, national Olympic committees are permitted to field in only one representative in the entire sport.

Philippine Rowing Association (PRA) president Patrick Gregorio said in a statement that their effort to professionalize the national sporting association (NSA) helped the team to where it is now.

"They involved all coaches and the athletes in the process including Cris and his teammates. The rowing national athletes are focused and determined. They are soft spoken and humble too. When you observe them train everyday at the La Mesa dam, you will realize their passion and desire to excel," said Gregorio, adding that the PRA was able to secure an ISO 9001 certification during the pandemic, the first NSA to do so.

MVP Sports Foundation president Al S. Panlilio also congratulated Nievarez.

"The MVP Sports Foundation extends its congratulations to Cris Nievarez for his qualification in the Men's Single Sculls for the Tokyo Olympics," Panlilio said in a statement. "We also congratulate the Philippine Rowing Association led by Chairman Benjie Ramos, President Patrick Gregorio, Vice President Quintin Pastrana , Secretary General Jercyl Lerin, and Treasurer Magnum Membrere for this great achievement.

"The next step now is to help our Olympian and his coaches prepare the best way they can and, under the guidance and leadership of the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee, the MVPSF will be there every step of the way."

"I know that Cris and the entire rowing team worked hard for this," Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez said in a statement. "It is well-deserved. The PSC will keep supporting him as much as we can on this quest."

Nievarez joins pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and boxers Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, and Carlo Paalam as members of the Philippine Olympic delegation.

He had recently participated in the Asian and Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tokyo, Japan last May 5-7 along with compatriots Zuriel Sumintac, Roque Abala Jr., Melcah Jen Caballero, and Jonie Delgaco.

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist was the last remaining bet for the country after his four teammates were eliminated in earlier rounds. He recorded a finish of 7:28.84 in the semifinals, good for fifth place.

Nievarez previously ruled the repechage to make it to the semis after clocking 8:11.40.