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2020 Tokyo Olympics

Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas’ medal chances

Nineteen brave athletes will have the Philippine flag emblazoned on their uniforms in the Tokyo Olympics that is set to begin this Friday. 

This is the biggest delegation for the Philippines in the Olympic Games since the 2000 Sydney edition. There, 20 athletes represented the country.

Hopes are high that from this batch of athletes will finally come the coveted gold medal that the country has long been waiting for. The possibility of copping multiple medals is also high given the number of world-caliber athletes in the Philippine contingent.

Here are the 19 Filipina and Filipino athletes who will make the country proud in Tokyo:

Boxing

Nesthy Petecio, women’s featherweight2019-sea-games-boxing-petecio Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

The 2019 AIBA Women’s Boxing World Championships gold medalist is one of the country’s best bets for a medal. There is reason to be optimistic. Nesthy Petecio has defeated 3 boxers who are ranked in the top 10 in the world. She is 2nd in the latest AIBA world rankings.

In a poll among sportswriters conducted by the Associated Press, Petecio is projected to win a bronze behind world no. 1 Yu-ting Liu of Taiwan and European Union Championships gold medalist Michaela Walsh of Ireland.

Medal Chances: High

Irish Magno, women’s flyweight2019-sea-games-irish-magno Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Irish Magno has been with the Philippine team for close to a decade. An Olympic medal would be a fitting culmination to her illustrious career.

The competition in her division will be tough. It features Buse Naz Çakıroğlu of Turkey, silver medalist in the World Championships; Asian champion Chang Yuan of China who beat Magno in the 2018 world championships; and former world champion Mary Kom of India. But with the Luck of the Irish and a birthday on July 27th, Magno could be capable of pulling off a surprise.

Medal Chances: Average

Eumir Marcial, men’s middleweight2019-sea-games-boxing-eumir-marcial Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Eumir Marcial is the only Filipino athlete projected by the Associated Press to win a gold in Tokyo. The country’s male flagbearer will face a stiff challenge from Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak, the 2017 world champion, and Russia’s Gleb Bakshi, the 2019 world champion.

Marcial holds wins over world number 3 Tursynbay Kulakhmet of Kazakhstan, number 8 Tarik Allali of Morocco, and number 7 Seyedshahin Mousavi of Iran. The middleweight division may be stacked, but Marcial remains one of the favorites to medal.

Medal Chances: High

Carlo Paalam, men’s flyweight2019-sea-games-boxing-carlo-paalam-gold Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

It might be difficult to imagine Carlo Paalam upsetting Shakhoibidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, gold medalist in both the 2016 Olympics and the 2019 World Championships. But Paalam is capable of pulling the rug from projected contenders like Galal Yafai of Britain and Billal Bennama of France. After all, Paalam, at only 22, is already a veteran internationalist who has medaled in the Youth World Championships and the Asian Games.

A good draw and Paalam could just find himself in medal contention.

Medal Chances: Average

Golf

Yuka Saso, ladies golf

2021-US-Womens-Open-Yuka-Saso-trophy Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Photo by Joseph Beck/USGA

Yuka Saso may be the youngest in the Philippine contingent, but she is also one of the country’s top medal prospects. The 20-year-old is now the 8th ranked golfer in the world. After becoming the first golfer from the Philippines to win a major when she bagged the US Women’s Open, she placed 5th in the LPGA Marathon Classic and 9th in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

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She will be in familiar territory in Tokyo since she has spent a good part of the season campaigning in the Japan LPGA.

Medal Chances: Average to High

Bianca Pagdanganan, ladies golfSEAG-Golf-Pagdangan-00324 Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

In a field that includes KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner and world number 1 Nelly Korda of the US and Koreans Jin Young Ko and Inbee Park, Bianca Pagdanganan may seem an unlikely medal bet. She has been playing great golf as of late, though, finishing 3-under in the LPGA Marathon Classic and tying for 23rd in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

Pagdanganan is an Asian Games gold medalist and a SEA Games double gold medalist, so she is used to the kind of environment she will encounter in Tokyo.

Medal Chances: Slim to Average

Juvic Pagunsan, men’s golf

Philippine-Golf-Tour-Juvic-Pagunsan Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Photo from PGT

The Kasumigaseki Country Club will also be familiar grounds for Juvic Pagunsan. He has been a regular campaigner in the Japan Tour since 2012, so Pagunsan will have some sort of homecourt advantage. That should be a huge confidence boost for Pagunsan since he will be up against golf stars like Jon Rahm of Spain, Justin Thomas of the US, Rory McIlroy of Ireland, and hometown bet Hideki Matsuyama.

Pagunsan recently won the Mizuno Open in Japan so he should be in top form in Tokyo.

Medal Chances: Slim to Average

Weightlifting

Hidilyn Diaz, women’s 55 kgseag-weightlifting-hidilyn-diaz Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Hidilyn Diaz is projected by the Associated Press as good enough only for a bronze medal. But Filipino sports fans know she is capable of more than that. World number 1 Liao Quiyun of China is the odds-on favorite to bag the gold. Diaz will also have to look out for Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan and Muattar Nabieva of Uzbekistan who are legitimate medal contenders.

Diaz’s personal best of 223 kilos (combined snatch/clean&jerk) could be enough for her to challenge Liao for the gold in Tokyo.

Medal Chances: High

Elreen Ando, women’s 64 kg2019-southeast-asian-games-elreen-ando Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Elreen Ando is expected to carry the women’s weightlifting torch for the Philippines when Diaz finally leaves the sport. Ando was initially looking at working on qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics given that she is currently just 12th in the world rankings. Only the top 8 earn slots to Tokyo.

Since only one lifter from each country is allowed per weight category, the final spot went to Ando. At only 22 years old, Ando might be good and young enough for 2 more editions of the Olympics.

Medal Chances: Slim

Athletics

EJ Obiena, men’s pole vault

SEA-Games-2019-EJ-Obiena Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Sweet feeling of vindication

The Associated Press predicts gold, silver, and bronze finishes for world number 1 Armand Duplantis of Sweden, number 2 Sam Kendricks of the US, and number 4 Renaud Lavillenie of France, respectively. EJ Obiena has already beaten Kendricks and Lavillenie. Now ranked 6th in the world, Obiena also holds victories over world number 3 Piotr Lisek of Poland and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil.

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Obiena will aim to outdo his national record of 5.87 meters to have a chance to medal in Tokyo.

Medal Chances: Average to High

Kristina Knott, women’s 200 meters

SEA-Games-2019-Athletics-Kristina-Knott Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Kristina Knott’s mad rush shatters records

The goal that Kristina Knott has set for herself is clear: Go under 23 seconds. Whether that would be enough for her to make it past the heats is another story. The slowest time in the 2016 Rio Olympics that qualified for the semifinals was 22.94 seconds. A time of below 23 seconds, though, will be good enough for Knott to break her own SEA Games record of 23.1 seconds. It will also make her one of the early favorites for next year’s Asian Games.

The previous winning time in 2018 was 22.96 seconds.

Medal Chances: Slim

Swimming

Remedy Rule, women’s 200-meter butterfly/200-meter freestyleSEAG-2019-Swimming-Remedy-Rule-01496 Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

The Tokyo Olympics will be Remedy Rule’s swansong. She has publicly declared that after the Games, she will be focusing on the graduate program she has enrolled in at the University of Miami. Expect Rule to go out splashing in the Olympic pool as she seeks to make it past the heats.

Her best chance could be in the women’s 200-meter butterfly. Her national record of 2:09.58 — which won her a silver in the 2019 SEA Games — is just a tad short of the 2:09.21 time for the last semis qualifier in the 2016 Olympics.

Medal Chances: Slim

Luke Gebbie, men’s 50-meter freestyle/100-meter freestyle

Luke Gebbie is the first Filipino to swim the 100-meter freestyle below 50 seconds. He clocked 49.94 seconds during the 2019 World Championships. In the Tokyo Olympics, Gebbie will also be competing in the 50-meter freestyle, where he also holds the national record of 22.57 seconds, which he set just this June.

The last semifinal qualifier in the 2016 Olympics clocked 22.10 seconds. Gebbie will plunge into the pool on July 27 when he sees action in his first event, the 100-meter freestyle.

Medal Chances: Slim

Skateboarding

Margielyn Didal, female street2018-asian-games-skateboarding-margielyn-didal-3 Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

The Asian Games and SEA Games were the Margielyn Didal show as she bagged gold medals in both competitions. Now, Didal will have to prove she can also conquer the world stage.

In the latest world rankings, Didal is ranked 17th. But with only three entries per country allowed in each event, Didal becomes the 13th highest ranked skateboarder in the female street event. Hometown bet Aori Nishimura and Brazilians Pamela Rosa and Rayssa Leal are the favorites to medal in Didal’s event.

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Medal Chances: Slim

Shooting

Jayson Valdez, men’s air rifle, 10-meters

Team-Pilipinas-Jayson-Valdez Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Handout photo

A second-generation shooter, Jayson Valdez has been projected by sports patron Mikee Romero as a legitimate medal contender. Valdez knows what he needs to do to attain a podium finish. His personal best in his event is 630. He needs to better than to give himself a chance to make the final 8.

Once there, the playing field evens out as all participants revert back to zero. Valdez is the son of Julius Valdez, the shooting legend who won 3 gold medals and a silver in the 1987 SEA Games.

Medal Chances: Slim to Average

Rowing

Cris Nievarez, men’s singles sculls2019-sea-games-rowing-Cris-Nievarez Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Six years ago, Cris Nievarez was a strong, athletic teenager who played basketball and track and field. Now 21 years old, Nievarez is the first Filipino rower to make the Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games. The 5’11 Nievarez will make his Olympic debut on Friday, July 23, the day the Tokyo Games officially open.

He will be up against towering European rowers such as 6’8 Oliver Zeidler of Germany, 6’4 Sverri Nielsen of Norway, and 6’4 Kjetil Borch of Norway who are predicted to dominate the competition.

Medal Chances: Slim

Judo

Kiyomi Watanabe, women’s -63 kgSEAG-Judo-Watanabe-05071-1 Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Kiyomi Watanabe will be waving the Philippine colors on Friday as the country’s female flagbearer. A few days after, she will be on the mat as she launches her bid to make a deep run in the competition.

A four-time SEA Games gold medalist, the 24-year-old Watanabe boasts of an extensive international resume. She is the first Filipina to win a medal in the International Judo Federation World Tour (bronze). She also won silver medals in the 2018 Asian Games and the 2017 European Open.

Medal Chances: Slim to Average

Taekwondo

Kurt Bryan Barbosa, men’s -58 kgSEAG-2019-Taekwondo-Kurt-Barbosa Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

Kurt Bryan Barbosa delivered one of the most epic performances by a Filipino athlete when he snatched a last-gasp victory in the Olympic qualifiers to clinch a spot in the Tokyo Games. His resilience and tenacity came as no surprise to those who have followed his career.

The 22-year-old Barbosa was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP of the UAAP in 2018. He won a gold in the 2019 SEA Games. He may be a heavy underdog, but Barbosa has shown he is not the type who backs down from adversity.

Medal Chances: Slim to Average

Artistic Gymnastics

Carlos Yulo, floor exercise2019-sea-games-gymnastics-caloy-yulo Midlife Halftime Olympic Odyssey: Ranking Team Pilipinas' medal chances 2020 Tokyo Olympics Bandwagon Wire Boxing Golf Gymnastics Judo Shooting Skateboarding Swimming Taekwondo Track & Field  - philippine sports news

The country’s brightest hopes for a gold rests on the diminutive shoulders of 21-year-old Carlos Yulo. He is the 2019 world champion in floor exercise. He also won a bronze in the same event in the 2018 World Championships.

Yulo is currently ranked 3rd in the world in his pet event where his main competition are world number 1 Artem Dolgopyot of Israel; and back-to-back world championships silver medalist and world number 2 Rayderley Zapata of Spain. Yulo is also projected to do well in the men’s vault and parallel bars.

Medal Chances: High

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