22 Olympians to represent PH as Nationals celebrates 100 years of Olympic appearance

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino in a cheery moment in Metz with swimmer Kyla Sanchez, weightlifter Elreen Ando, boxer Nesthy Petecio, gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Carlo Paalam. POC

By Gil Moriones

MANILA—In the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, the Philippine athletes will not just try their best to represent and give pride to the flag but also celebrate the country's 100 years of appearance in the Summer Olympic Games since 1924.

In the same host city a century ago, the Philippines sent a lone sprinter, David Nepomuceno.  

Twenty-two delegates are now confirmed to be heading to the French capital, a larger contingent compared to the Tokyo 2020 batch back in 2021.

If Gilas Pilipinas wins the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Latvia, the delegation will increase.

Regardless of what happens to Gilas, this will be the biggest Philippine delegation to the Olympics since athletes have been required to undergo qualifying events to earn Olympic berths.

“This proves that despite the stringent qualifiers by the international federations, our athletes have established themselves as among the world’s best,” Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino said on Wednesday.

“It’s never easy qualifying for the Olympics—much more winning medals—but the template has been set and our athletes in Paris have surely set the tone and path for the future.”

Headlining the "Centennial Team" are the medal-winning sluggers in the Tokyo Games, Carlo Paalam, Eumir Marcial, and Nesthy Petecio, and together with them who will compete in boxing are Aira Villegas and Hergie Bacyadan. 

Although the nation's sports gem and gold medalist, Hidilyn Diaz is absent as she failed to qualify, her co-weightlifters John Ceniza, Elreen Ando, and Vanessa Sarno will try to snatch another gold medal in the weightlifting competition for the second time. 

Olympian golfers Bianca Pagdanganan will try again her luck to ace a medal together with Dottie Ardina in women's Golf after being qualified through their national rankings. 

Decorated vaulter EJ Obiena widened his chances of winning a medal as his longtime training partner Thiago Braz will miss the quadrennial event due to the imposition of a 16-month suspension caused by doping issues.

Runners John Cabang Tolentino and Lauren Hoffman will be with Obiena in the athletics event of the Summer Games as their fresh qualifications were announced on Wednesday.

The nation's pride of gymnastics, Carlos Yulo, will once again attempt to win a medal together with Aleah Finnegan, Emma Malabuyo, and Levi Ruivivar.

The two-time Olympic medalist Kayla Sanchez will attempt to seal her first medal for the Philippines together with Jarod Hatch as both tankers will compete in the swimming competition. 

Lastly, the country's top fencer Samantha Catantan also qualified for the Olympics, and there is a high chance for a crossover date with Maxine Esteban of Ivory Coast. 

Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe and rower Joanie Delgado will seek Olympic medals as well. 

Petecio and Paalam will be the flag bearers during the opening ceremonies on July 26.

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