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2020 Tokyo Olympics

Jayson Valdez sets lofty goals heading to Tokyo Games

Jayson Valdez once dreamt of being an Olympian. Literally.

The country’s 12th qualifier to the Tokyo Games vividly remembers how he had a vision three years ago about making it to the Olympics — and more so, winning the first-ever gold medal for the Philippines.

Valdez, 25, said he could clearly visualize his dream of competing in an Olympic game and holding in his hands the gold that has eluded the country for the past 97 years or since Filipinos began competing in the quadrennial meet in 1924.

“Meron akong panaginip. It’s an Olympic Games, hindi ko lang alam kung anong Olympic Games ‘yun. Pero malinaw ‘yung mukha ko dun sa panaginip and malinaw na gold medal ‘yung hawak ko,” he shared in his appearance in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum online edition on Tuesday.

“Nag-start daw ‘yung competition and then natapos. Nag-finals and then medal na kaagad. ‘Yun ‘yung mga napanaginipan ko nung araw na ‘yun. Hindi ko lang maalala kung paano natulog nung araw na ‘yun para maulit ko lang ‘yung ganung panaginip,” added the son of former bemedalled national team shooter Julius Valdez.

“Siguro isa ‘yun sa pangitain. We’ll see. Hindi natin alam kung ano ‘yung mga next na mangyayari.”

That was in 2018. Fast forward to 2021 and Valdez gets to relive the first step of that dream after earning a berth in the Tokyo Games upon qualifying in the men’s 10-meter air rifle.

All along the Filipino shooter thought his Olympic bid was over after failing to make it past the qualifiers in 2019.

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But over the weekend, a ray of hope came by after Valdez was notified by the ISSF (International Shooting Sports Federation) if he’s ready to compete before handing him the Olympic berth via the continental quota. Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham Tolentino later made it official that Valdez just became the 12th Filipino to qualify in the Tokyo Games.

Now the work begins for Valdez, who became the first Filipino marksman to make the Olympics since Paul Bryan Rosario made the cut in the men’s skeet event as a wild card entry during the 2012 Summer Games in London.

He just had himself vaccinated for COVID-19 and spent the past two days just trying to chill and relax before he gets back to the range and prepares for the biggest challenge of his career as a sportsman.

Valdez is confident about his chances especially working with two of the country’s most accomplished shooters in his father Julius, who won three golds and a silver in the 1987 Jakarta Southeast Asian Games, and veteran Nathaniel ‘Tac’ Padilla, a five-time gold medal winner in the SEA Games.

“Since from the start siya talaga ‘yung nag-support sa akin. Binigyan niya ako ng gamit, binilhan niya ako ng baril, binibigyan niya ako ng support. And every competition ko abroad, lagi niya akong binibigyan ng lahat ng kailangan ko,” Valdez said of Padilla, who he affectionately referred to as ‘Dad,’ during the session presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

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His ‘Papa Julius’ meanwhile, was the one who really encouraged him to take shooting as a sport and lived his father’s dream to become an Olympian.

“Being an Olympian ay pangarap niyang gising at pangarap niyang tulog, something like that. Hindi niya kasi naituloy,” he said of the elder Valdez in the weekly Forum powered by Smart and Upstream Media as the official webcast partner.

Valdez will start practicing by Thursday as he gears for the Olympic competition where 30 marksmen are vying in his event, with the Top Eight advancing in the medal round.

His immediate goal? Beat his personal best of 630 or more which he often does in practice.

“Ma-beat ko lang ‘yung personal best ko, I’m sure papasok ako sa Top Eight. We’ll see,” added Valdez, who noted that some of his possible opponents in the Olympics own personal best of either 631 or 632.

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