TOKYO – Around the same time that the president of the country’s gymnastics federation was studying the video of American gymnastics star Simone Biles, rower Cris Nievarez was cutting the surface of the Sea Forest Waterway here, giving the Philippines team a welcome dose of positivity when it started. his quest for medals at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
Nievarez, a 21-year-old, admitted as a long shot of a medal, managed to provide the country with an ideal start: He qualified for the quarter-finals of the men’s singles sculls a day before the Philippines team sends two of your world champions into action in different locations here.
“It feels very good, first race, first attempt; this is for the country, ”said Nievarez, who finished third in the Heat 5 of the event at 7: 22.97. He finished behind Croatian Damir Martin (7: 09.17), the Rio 2016 Olympic Games silver medalist, and Russian Alexander Vyazovkin (7: 14.95), the indoor world champion.
In reality, Nievarez was not expected to fire up the country’s medal machine here, but at a time when a raging pandemic has taught people to celebrate small victories, there was no diminishing of the triumph of the Philippine rower – Nievarez, only the third. A Filipino rower to campaign in the Summer Games, he edged out the other two before him to reach the quarterfinals.
Land to do
More importantly, it provided an injection of motivation to a delegation seeking to end a gold medal chase here.
“It is a good start for the Philippine team here at the Tokyo Olympics,” said Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino. “Nievarez’s qualification in the quarterfinals on day one is a good testament that our athletes have prepared well, despite the pandemic.”
However, a look at the times shows how much ground, or water, to be fitter, Nievarez has to cover if he wants to take his Olympic journey a little further.
“We will study the times of everyone who qualified, we will see who I could face in the quarterfinals and we will find out how long I need to chase,” he said.
Reigning world champions Carlos Yulo in gymnastics and Nesthy Petecio in boxing will try to fan the spark ignited by Nievarez as they try to validate their status as gold medal favorites.
And Yulo will do it without valuable support: a triple-twist, double-forward trick that gym chief Cynthia Carrion said would have been gold for sure.
Carrión studied a clip of Biles doing the same trick, also known as the “triple-double,” and said that Yulo is capable of doing it, but his trainer was concerned that the Filipino made a perfect landing.
“If the landing fails, it’s automatic zero,” Carrión said.
Carrion said that’s what happened to Russian star Nikita Nagornyy at the world championships, allowing Yulo to run away with the crown.
Nagornyy will be Yulo’s biggest threat for gold in the floor exercise, but Carrion said the Russian’s performance has dropped ahead of the Olympics.
“Hey [Nagornyy] He did 6.6 in his last competition, ”Carrión said. “If Nikita does 6.6 here and Caloy does 6.8, then Caloy did it.”
Petecio, meanwhile, faces Congolese Marcelat Sakobi Matshu at the Kokugikan Stadium, where she will be one of the favorites in the women’s featherweight (54 to 57 kilograms).
The reigning women’s featherweight world champion is expected to emerge triumphant from that bout, but a victory puts her directly on the other side of the ring from No. 1 Lin Yu-ting.
While she won’t be the favorite in that match, Petecio looks like an athlete with a chip on her shoulder after needing to qualify through her qualification because he couldn’t snatch an absolute spot from her in an Olympic qualifying tournament.
“You reap what you sow,” said Petecio after losing an automatic ticket to Tokyo. “We sow since 2018, 2019 and that allowed us to reap the fruits of our work, our rankings.”
Like Yulo, Petecio is also a reigning world champion. But the 29-year-old boxer from Davao puts little weight on her current crown.
“That is past, it is done, this is a new medal to pursue. We cannot take our records to this new fight, ”he said.
Meanwhile, Kurt Barbosa faces great odds in his opening fight in the men’s -58kg taekwondo class.
Barbosa, ranked 16, faces top seed Jang Jun of Korea, the 2019 world champion who is expected to take the gold here.
Finishing the Filipinos’ season on Day 2 of the Olympics is swimmer Remedy Rule, who will see action in the 100-meter fly heats.
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