13 Filipino athletes kick off Olympic bid

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

(CNN Philippines) — The opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic will mark the start of the Philippines' campaign to end a 20-year medal drought.

There are 13 Filipino athletes among the more than 10,000 eyeing medals in 28 Olympic sports.

The Filipinos, led by three-time Olympians Marestella Torres-Sunang of track and field and Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, have gone through the eye of the needle just to get here.

“The crop of 13 athletes we have they are well prepared and there’s nothing more we can ask of these people," said Filipino chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta on the eve of the opening ceremony. "They are here because they are the best in the Philippines.”

The historic Maracana Stadium, which built to host the 1950 World Cup, will be the venue of the opening ceremony.

It will be a typical Brazilian party.

The games will commence amid security threats, political instability, and the fear of the Zika virus, which has forced some of the biggest names in many sports to withdraw from the competition.

Filipino golfer Angelo Que was one of the athletes who pulled out.

Romasanta, however, said that the Filipino delegation is focused on putting on a competitive showing when the games begin.

“Everything else is the least of the concern for our athletes. Their concern is being able to further improve and enhance their competitiveness until game time,” he said.

“They are not really concerned about or distracted by other things except focus on what they need to do. That’s what they are eagerly anticipating,” he added.

Others carrying the fight for the Philippines are boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna, athletics’ Eric Cray and Mary Joy Tabal, weightlifter Nestor Colonia, and taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora, judoka Kodo Nakano, golfer Miguel Tabuena, and table tennis ace Ian Lariba.

Cray and Nakano are set to arrive in Rio hours before the opening ceremony, while Tabuena is flying in Saturday.

Lariba, Lacuna, and Suarez, will kick off the Philippine campaign the on the first day of the competition.

“It’s when and where the real business begins. And that’s what our athletes are eagerly anticipated. They are all going to do what they do best,” said Romasanta.

Lariba, a 21-year-old native of Cagayan de Oro, is the first table tennis player from the Philippines to see action in the Olympics.

The 297th world ranked Lariba, will be facing world 125 Han Xing from Congo. But the first-time Olympian is not looking at the numbers.

“I talked to Ian and she’s not worried about any opponent she will face. Inevitably, she will have to face anyone of them,” said the chef-de-mission.

Lacuna will compete in the men’s 400m freestyle, hoping to put on a good showing against some of the sport's biggest names.

Suarez, a legitimate medal contender, will face Great Britain’s Joseph Cordina in the early round of the lightweight division.

Romasanta said there is no point pressuring the athletes to win the medal.

“Let’s just take things as they come. Whoever the opponent will be will be faced with equal competitiveness by our athletes,” he said.

Security is tight in and around Rio, which is facing political unrest following the impeachment of its President.

The magnitude of the event also makes this Olympics a clear target for terrorist attacks.

The past two days were marred by bomb scares at the Olympic Aquatic Center and the Athletes Village.

This has forced Brazil to tighten the security, as if 85,000 police and military personal that’s been deployed to protect the Games are not enough.

“People are aware. Anything left unattended is something we should worry about,” said Romasanta of the twin bomb scares the past two days.

But nothing will stop the Olympics — not now.