Tokyo 2020: 10 sports to watch in PH Olympic drive
With the Olympics just around the bend, the Philippines turns to 10 sports in its bid for Tokyo 2020 berths




MANILA, Philippines – Six months. That’s all the time left for the Philippines to earn more Olympic spots before the world’s biggest sporting event unfolds in Tokyo.

Only world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena have earned tickets to the 2020 Summer Games, but more Filipino athletes look to secure berths in qualifying tournaments starting this month. 

It will be another steep climb for the national bets, but the Philippines continues to hold out hope that these 10 sports will deliver:


Led by Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, and Santi Santillan, the Philippines aims to qualify in the inaugural staging of 3×3 basketball in the Olympics.

The team will see action in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in India this March after leaping to the top 20 in the world rankings.

Bunched with Slovenia, France, Qatar, and the Dominican Republic in Pool C, the Philippine men’s team hopes to finish in the top 3 of the 20-nation qualfiier to earn a slot in Tokyo.


Alvin Pasaol. Photo release




World champion Nesthy Petecio leads the Filipino boxers’ bid in the Olympic qualifying events in the coming months.

Petecio looks to punch her ticket to Tokyo after capturing the gold in the 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships last October in Russia.

And the Davao del Sur native may just sustain her topnotch form as she also ruled the featherweight division ot the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila last December. 

Eumir Felix Marcial banners the men’s Olympic campaign after clinching a silver in the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Russia last September.

The 24-year-old Marcial again impressed in the SEA Games when he stopped his Vietnamese foe in the middleweight finals in just 71 seconds to clinch the gold. 

If Filipino boxers do qualify, they also hope to end the sport’s Oympic drought as the country’s last medal in the sport came over two decades ago when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco bagged a silver in the 1996 Atlanta Games. 


Eumir Marcial. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler




Filipino-Japanese Kiyomi Watanabe hopes to bring her regional dominance to the Olympics. 

Ranked world No. 23 in the 63kg weight class of women’s judo, Watanabe aims to stay inside the top 26 to secure a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Only the top 26 judokas in the world in each weight class will qualify in the quadrennial meet.

The 23-year-old standout bagged a silver in the 2018 Asian Games and also remained unstoppable in the 2019 SEA Games where she won her fourth straight regional gold.

Watanabe, the Cebu-born judoka based in Japan, is set to compete in several more Olympic qualifying tournaments to hold her ranking.


Kiyomi Watanabe (in blue). File photo from PSC   




After a golden but controversial stint in the 2019 SEA Games, Junna Tsukii trains her focus back on the Olympic karate qualifiers. 

Tsukii – the gold medal winner who, after the regional meet, hoped to to fix her strained relations with national coach Okay Arpa – tries to crash into the top 16 of the world ranking by April 6 to clinch a Tokyo berth. 

The Filipino-Japanese targets at least a gold or two silvers in one of the 6 qualifying tournaments, including the Karate 1-Series A in Santiago, Chile and the Karate-1 Premier League in Paris, France to boost her bid. 


 Junna Tsukii. File photo




As skateboarding debuts in the Olympics, Margielyn Didal surely hopes to be part of it. 

So far, the Cebuana skate star stayed on track of her bid as she kept hold of the No. 13 spot in the street event of the Olympic world skateboarding ranking. 

Only the top 16 skateboarders in the world rankings will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Didal, who turned into a Philippine sports sensation after bagging a gold in the 2018 Asian Games, boosted her bid after a double-gold campaign in the SEA Games where she ruled both the women’s Game of S.K.A.T.E. and street events. 

The 20-year-old also topped two events in California last November, the Exposure Open 2019 in Huntington Beach and the 11th Annual Ladies Day at The Berrics.

Last July,  Didal landed 5th place – the highest finish achieved by a Filipino – in the Street League Skateboarding World Tour. 


 Margielyn Didal. Photo by Alvin Brian Go/Rappler




Asian Games gold medalist Yuka Saso leads the Olympic bid of the Philippine golf team. 

Only the top 15 players in the men’s and women’s divisions can earn outright slots in the Tokyo 2020 Games. 

But the rest of the hopefuls can vie for the remaining slots in the 60-man field of each division by collecting tournament points and barging into the top 60 of the Olympic Golf Rankings (OGR).

Saso, the Filipino-Japanese who pulled off a golden double in the 2018 Asian Games by ruling the individual and team event, hopes to stay inside the top 60 until June 29 to secure an Olympic berth.

Also in the running for a slot is Filipino-American golfer Clariss Guce.


Yuka Saso. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler




James DeiparineLuke Gebbie, Remedy Rule, and Jasmine Alkhaldi  made the Olympic Selection Time (OST) B cut in their respective events to headline Philippine swimming’s Tokyo 2020 bid.

Although a country can only send one B-cut swimmer in each division, Olympic hopefuls still have a shot at making the Qualifying Time A (QT-A) in the next few months.

Deiparine, the only Filipino swimmer to capture a gold in the 2019 SEA Games, recorded a time of 1 minute and 1.46 seconds in the men’s 100m breaststroke of the regional meet to breach the 1:01.73 B-cut.

But the 26-year-old targets the 59.93 QT-A after an impressive performance last December where he shattered a 10-year SEA Games record, reset his own Philippine mark, and ended the country’s decade-long gold medal drought in the sport.

Rule clocked 2:11.38 in the women’s 200m butterfly in the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwanju, South Korea last July to make the  B cut.

The Filipino-American got her second B time in the women’s 100m freestyle at 55.80 seconds.

Gebbie made the B-cut in the 100m free in the World Championships after posting a time of 49.94. In the SEA Games, the Filipino-Kiwi also made the cut in the 50m free (22.62).

Alkhaldi, a two-time Olympian, hopes for another go at it in Tokyo after reaching the B-cut in the 50m free (25.48) and the 100m free (55.76). 


 James Deiparine. Photo by Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE




After shattering the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought, Hidilyn Diaz eyes a golden return this time. 

Diaz, who captured a silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, aims to book a fourth straight Olympic stint in two qualifying tournaments – the Roma 2020 World Cup in January and the 2020 Senior Weightlifting Championships in Kazakhstan in April. 

The Philippines’ elite athlete looked on track of her bid after snatching a pair of bronze medals in the women’s 55kg event of the 2019 IWF World Weightlifting Championships in Pattaya, Thailand.

Diaz – ranked No. 5 in the world behind 4 Chinese lifters in her weight class – also capped 2019 with her first SEA Games gold. 


 Hidilyn Diaz. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler




Athletics secured the Philippines’ first Olympic berth but the team hopes more national team bets can qualify in the Tokyo 2020 Games.  

Pole vault star Ernest John “EJ” Obiena became the country’s first qualifier after clearing 5.81 meters in the 2019 Salto Con L’asta in Chiari, Italy last September.

Also hoping to meet the Olympics standard in the next few months are SEA Games gold medalists Kristina Knott (200m), Eric Cray (400m hurdles), William Morrison  (shot put), Natalie Uy (pole vault), and Christine Hallasgo (marathon).  

Knott, the 24-year-old Filipino-American who shattered the national and SEA Games record, wound up as the most bemedalled bet with another gold in the 4x100m mixed relay and a silver in the 100m to lead the team’s 11 gold-8 silver-8 bronze medal haul in the regional meet.  



EJ Obiena. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler   




Carlos Yulo hopes to sustain his phenomenal run all the way to the 2020 Olympics. 

The 19-year-old gymnastics star secured his own Tokyo ticket after pole vaulter EJ Obiena when he made the cut in the men’s’ all-around finals at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships last October in Stuttgart, Germany.

In the same tournament, Yulo made history as he became the first Southeast Asian male gymnast to capture a gold in the Worlds when he ruled the men’s floor exercise.

Two months later, the 4-foot-9 dynamo emerged as the most bemedalled athlete of the Philippine contingent in the 2019 SEA Games with 2 golds and 5 silvers.



Carlos Yulo. Photo from Jat Tenorio/Red Ox Media Events   





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