PHILIPPINE Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia on Tuesday said the primary goal leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics is to qualify as many Filipino athletes as possible.
“If we can get 15 to 20 athletes to Rio that will be good,” said Garcia during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
“That will be an accomplishment we can be proud of. If we go back to the past few Olympics, we haven’t been sending many athletes,” he said.
In the 2012 London Olympics, the Philippines only had 11 qualifiers in eight sports, and none of them got close to the medal rounds.
Garcia told the forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Shakey’s, Accel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., that PSC is fully behind the country’s Olympic drive.
“We are willing to spend. Funding will not be a problem as long as we qualify,” said Garcia who, however, said it’s too early to think of how much is to be spent.
He said qualifying athletes to Rio will be costly because the PSC will have to spend for each athlete hoping to qualify in any of the 28 Olympic sports.
The qualifying events, Garcia said, are costly because sometimes the athletes in individual and team events have to travel as far as Europe to join the qualifiers.
Once they qualify, the PSC will also have to spend for their training, but once they get to Rio, everything will be shouldered by the International Olympic Committee.
“Pinakamura ang Olympics (It’s the cheapest),” said the PSC chairman.
But Garcia issued an appeal to the different NSAs (national sports associations) to make sure the athletes they send to the qualifying events are “qualified.”
“As long as they are qualified we have no problem. Let us not spend our money on athletes with no chances of qualifying,” said Garcia.
So far, Eric Cray of track and field, a double gold winner in the last Southeast Games, is the only Filipino athlete assured of a slot to the Rio Olympics.
Garcia is also counting on 2014 Asian Games gold medalist Daniel Caluag of BMX to make it but was surprised the US-based rider has yet to join any qualifying event.
“We have all the tournaments lined up. There's no sense of urgency,” said Abraham Tolentino, Phicycling president
Garcia said the PSC just received a budget request of US$17,000 from Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines regarding Caluag’s drive to Rio.