Escudero urges more support to Rio hopefuls (Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero yesterday called the country’s diminishing chances in the Olympics as very alarming even as he urged the Philippine Sports Commission to grant more support to sports associations with athletes still seeking slots in next year’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Philippines has yet to win a gold medal in the Olympics.

So far, only Fil-Am trackster Eric Cray has qualified for a slot in the Rio Games.

“At the very least, government should be at the forefront of this campaign and reward national sports associations which qualify their athletes in the Olympics through more financial support from the PSC,” Escudero said. “This will give more opportunities to the NSAs to expose their athletes to more international competitions and training.”

But Escudero said only NSAs with impressive records of performance should deserve government support.

But NSAs with so-so potential, Escudero said, should not expect equal government support compared with NSAs which could send athletes to the Olympics and win medals in the Asian and Southeast Asian Games.

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“Sports’ landscape has changed through the years. We have seen the rise of countries we used to beat in the SEA Games and we are fighting hard just to be able to make it in the middle pack,” Escudero said.

“So far, we only have one athlete qualified to play in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But Cray needed to quit his job in the US and had sought private support just to be able to continue with his Olympic dream. Government, in my opinion, should take more of the burden in our Olympians’ quests.”

Escudero also noted BMX rider Daniel Caluag’s concern about his bid and training for a Rio slot. Caluag, sole gold medal winner for the Philippines in last year’s Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, also expressed the need to take a break from his job as a nurse to concentrate on his Olympic drive.

The Philippines last won an Olympic medal in 1996 in Atlanta courtesy of Mansueto Velasco in boxing. Mansueto’s brother Rhoel, also a boxer, won a bronze medal before him in 1992 in Barcelona.

No Filipino athlete has won a medal in the Summer Games after Atlanta.

Escudero also noted the dwindling number of Filipino athletes who qualify for the Olympics.

The Philippines has so far collected two silver medals and seven bronze medals since the country first took part in the Olympics in 1924 in Paris.

The biggest team the Philippines had sent to the Summer Games was in 1972 in Munich with 53 athletes.

The last time the Philippines sent a big team to the Olympics was in 1992 in Barcelona with 26 athletes and in 2000 in Sydney.

The Philippines only had 16 athletes in Athens (2004), 15 in Beijing (2008) and 11 in London (2012).

Only Cray has so far made it to Rio de Janeiro.

Other NSAs are still working to send their athletes to the 2016 Games by sending them to international Olympic qualifiers, including weightlifting, cycling, basketball, fencing, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, tennis, triathlon, judo, canoeing, shooting and boxing.