Juico hints at new Fil-Am recruits beefing up PH team in run-up to Asian Games
Patafa officials led by president Philip Ella Juico appear during Tuesday's PSA Forum at the Tapa King restaurant in Cubao. Jerome Ascano

THE country’s top tracksters warm up for the coming Asian Games in Indonesia by competing against some of the best in the region during the 2018 Ayala Philippine Athletic Championships in Ilagan, Isabela next month.

Fil-Ams Eric Cray and Anthony Beram are expected to banner the country’s campaign in the May 31 to June 4 meet which the City of Ilagan will be hosting for the second straight year.

The 22-year-old Beram was a double gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games last year in Kuala Lumpur (200m and 400 m), while the 29-year-old Cray represented the country in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics, and like Beram, also won two gold medals during the 2015 edition of the SEA Games in Singapore (200 m and 400 me hurdles).

“Eric, we expect him to come as he normally does. And Beram will come because he’ll be training here (for the Asiad),” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico in the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Tapa King Restaurant at Farmers Plaza in Cubao on Tuesday.

Around 14 to 15 countries are seeing action in the five-day tournament led by traditional powers Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

“We sent invitations to all (45) Asian countries,” according to Juico.

Also gracing the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corporation, Tapa King, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), were Patafa secretary general Renato Unso, Jan Bengzon and Jimmy Villegas, both representing corporate backer Ayala Corp., and former City of Ilagan Mayor Jay Diaz.

Diaz said the City of Ilagan will observe the same time frame it had last year as far as holding the different events are concerned in order to spare the participants from running action under the searing heat.

“Just like what we did last year in coordination with Patafa officials, we’ll start (the event) at 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. then from 4:00 p.m. until what time matapos na sa gabi para hindi masyadong mainitan (yung mga atleta).”

The event comes two months before the Asiad in the cities of Jakarta and Palembang, where Cray, Beram, EJ Obiena, among others are the country’s top bets for a medal.

Juico disclosed in the same session the inclusion of female Fil-Am athletes in the track and field roster for the quadrennial meet, although he’d rather not name them at the moment.

“There are some athletes we're looking at but I don’t know strategically if we should mention their names because it might get into the radar of the opposition. In other words, meron tayong hugot diyan,” he said.

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“Were keeping them on the sides, we’re not exposing them here locally, but they are being exposed abroad.”

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