PH boxers will be short-handed on trainers at Rio Olympics

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine boxers will have to compete with the assistance of just a single boxing coach at the Rio Olympics after being limited by local organizers due to the country's small delegation size.

That means that national team head coach Nolito “Boy” Velasco will be the only trainer watching over both lightweight Charly Suarez and light flyweight Rogen Ladon, and that he could face a situation where one boxer is unable to warm up for his bout because he’s working the other’s corner. 

The issue was elevated to the world governing body AIBA, which states in its technical rules that each boxer is entitled to as many as 3 coaches in the corner, but they said the issue was up to the organizer's discretion.

“It’s the Rio organizing committee that decides on these matters and according to [Philippine chef de mission] Joey Romasanta, he talked to them and they said that with the size of the Philippine delegation, which is 12 athletes, we can only be given accreditation for one coach, even if we had 4 boxers,” said Ed Picson, executive director of ABAP, the Philippines’ National Sports Association (NSA) for boxing.

An email to the Rio Olympic organizers was not responded to by the time of this article’s publication.

Picson would have wanted to send Romeo Brin, a 3-time Olympic boxer who has been working with the boxers for the past 6 months, to assist Velasco. Picson opted against sending him to Rio without accreditation due to the limited availability of hotel rooms in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and ongoing concerns over outbreaks of violence.

Instead, Picson will rely on assistance from the Australian delegation, in particular Kevin Smith, a former consultant for the Philippines who heads up the Australian boxing team. Smith had worked as a second assistant for Mark Anthony Barriga, the Philippines’ lone boxer at the 2012 Games, when only one Filipino boxer qualified for the London Olympics.

The two teams frequently help each other out at international tournaments, including at the 2016 World Qualifiers at Azerbaijan this past June, when Velasco assisted Smith. Australia is sending 3 boxers to the Rio Olympics, none of whom are in the same weight classes as the Filipinos.

The Philippines is looking to end a 20-year medal drought at the Olympics, and with 5 of the country’s 9 total medals coming in the boxing event, the two boxers are considered among the best medal hopes in Rio.

Suarez and Ladon are expected to leave their training camp in Maryland today, Tuesday, July 26 and head to Las Vegas for a day, then fly out to Houston on a stopover before departing for Rio. Brin, who is in Maryland with the boxers, will be returning to the Philippines.

The team manager Picson, like ABAP president Ricky Vargas, secretary general Patrick Gregorio, and MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio, is also without Olympic accreditation, but will leave for Rio on August 6 to provide "moral support" to the boxers. 

Picson accepts that the Philippines will simply have to do their best with what they have.

“We have no choice because ideally we should have at least two coaches, but since the [Philippine Olympic Committee] says there’s no way because Rio won’t allow it, there’s no other way to bring in a second coach. So I guess we’ll have to make do with one coach,” said Picson. – Rappler.com