Nievarez keeps Olympic hopes alive, two PH rowing duos out of contention

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) – Cris Nievarez remains the lone Filipino rower in the hunt for a Tokyo Olympics berth in the 2021 World Rowing Asian and Oceanian Olympic Qualification Regatta on Thursday at Tokyo, Japan.

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist registered a total time of 8 minutes and 11.40 seconds to top the men's single sculls repechage ahead of bets from Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia. As the best rower in repechage, Nievarez secured a slot in the semifinals which will be played on Friday morning.

Nievarez played in the repechage after placing fourth in the men's single sculls heat rounds on Thursday morning, one spot shy of an automatic semifinals qualification. Uzbekistan's Mekhrojbek Mamatkulov topped the race while Hong Kong's Chi Fung Chan and Iraq's Mohammed Al-Khafaji earned the other semifinal tickets.

National team head coach Ed Maerina shared Nievarez's complained of tight muscles before the morning match, which affected his performance, because of strong winds and cold weather at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay.

"It's good that the weather became warmer in the afternoon during the repechage. He also wore his long sleeves to keep him warm while on the water," Maerina told CNN Philippines.

Nievarez needs to finish in the top 3 of his semifinal bracket on Friday to advance to the tournament finals, where five rowers will clinch the Tokyo Olympics tickets.

Meanwhile, the two Filipino rowing pairs in the meet ended their chase for an Olympic ticket after being eliminated in repechage.

The duo of Roque Abala Jr. and Zuriel Sumintac settled for a fourth place finish in the men's doubles sculls event after finishing with a time of 7 minutes and 39.35 seconds. The rowing pairs from Uzbekistan (7:10.81) and Kazakhstan (7:16.53) advanced to the semifinals after emerging as the best duos in their repechage.

Abala and Sumintac also placed fourth in the heat round, ruled by tandems from Japan and India.

The pair of Melcah Caballero and Joanie Delgaco also failed to get an Olympic ticket after recording a third place finish in the women's doubles sculls, with a time of 8 minutes and 14.30 seconds. Vietnam, which the Filipino pair defeated for the gold in the 2019 SEA Games, topped the race with 7 minutes and 59.96 seconds while South Korean rowers placed second with an 8:08.03 mark.

The Caballero-Delgaco tandem finished third in the heat matches, but frontrunner Iran only got the automatic semifinals slot.

"In our doubles' teams, we are seeded in stronger brackets. It was a hard luck for us," admitted Maerina.

The two Filipino tandems are relegated to the ranking matches on Friday.

Maerina and Benjamin Tolentino are the only Filipinos who have competed in Summer Olympics rowing competitions.