Medal hopes lie on Olympic veterans

EJ Obiena pole vault philippimes

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena reacts as he competes in the men’s pole vault final during the World Athletics Championships at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest on August 26, 2023. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP)

Much of the optimism in the coming 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, rests on pole vault star EJ Obiena and Olympic medalist swimmer Kayla Noelle Sanchez.

The prospects of nabbing more medals in the continental showpiece will hinge on what the rest of the 396 Filipino athletes from 40 sports can deliver.

Boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, both of them Tokyo Olympics silver medalists, are favored to go deeper into the medal rounds as well as middleweight Eumir Marcial, who made it to the bronze-medal platform of the previous Olympiad.

Although golfer Yuka Saso won’t be donning the national colors any longer after her shift of allegiance to Japan, Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo and skateboarder Margielyn Didal remain in the conversation to recreate their past triumphs.

Diaz-Naranjo won the gold in the women’s 55 kilogram (kg) in Indonesia, but won’t be in the same weight class that she ruled in the Olympics after going up to 59kg. Didal, meanwhile, tries to retain her throne in women’s street.

“Our athletes are all determined to become the best in their respective events regardless of the competition. We’re confident they can deliver,” said Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino.

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