Philippine Olympic team

Tokyo Olympics: Meet Team Philippines

Beatrice Go

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Tokyo Olympics: Meet Team Philippines

PRIME BETS. Olympic medal hopefuls (from top left, clockwise) pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, boxers Eumir Marcial and Nesthy Petecio, judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, weightlifter HIdilyn Diaz, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, and golfer Yuka Saso lead the 19 Filipinos in the Tokyo Olympics.

Amino Vital (Obiena), Josh Albelda/Rappler (Yulo), Alecs Ongcal/Rappler (Marcial, Petecio), Adrian Portugal/Rappler (Saso), Asian Games media pool (Didal), File photos (Diaz, Watanabe)

Get to know the 19 Filipino athletes who will see action in the Tokyo Olympics

A 19-strong athlete delegation leads the Philippines’ hunt for a first Olympic gold. 

Hopes are high for the country’s Tokyo Games campaign as the Philippines pins its hopes on several Filipino world champions and world-ranked athletes who have solid chances of fulfilling the elusive golden dream. 

Get to know our 19 Filipino Olympic medal hopefuls and find out how you can follow their events! (LIVE UPDATES AND RESULTS: Tokyo Olympics)


EJ Obiena

EJ Obiena
SEA GAMES GOLD. EJ Obiena cops his first SEA Games gold to emerge as the best pole vaulter in the region.
Josh Albelda/Rappler

Event: Athletics – Men’s pole vault

Date: Saturday, July 31 

Venue: Olympic Stadium

EJ Obiena hopes to continue to make waves after becoming the first Filipino to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

The country’s top pole vaulter is a prime bet for a medal in the quadrennial meet as he is peaking at the right time, resetting the national outdoor pole vault record twice

It has been a long journey to Tokyo 2020 for Obiena as he battled through an ACL injury right before his flight to the 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia before finally copping a gold in the 2019 edition. 

Obiena has been living in Formia, Italy since 2014 to train with multi-titled coach Vitaly Petrov and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz. 

In the Tokyo Games, Obiena is tipped as a top contender for an Olympic medal as he battles with his usual rivals led by Swedish-American wunderkind Armand Duplantis and American Sam Kendricks. 


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: EJ Obiena

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: EJ Obiena

Carlos Yulo

MULTIPLE MEDAL BET. Carlos Yulo can collect more than one Olympic medal.
Josh Albelda/Rappler

Event: Artistic gymnastics – Men’s individual all-around

Date: Saturday, July 24

Venue: Ariake Gymnastics Centre

Carlos Yulo not only has a chance to clinch an Olympic medal, but he can even bag a few more. 

Before becoming the Philippines’ first world gymnastics champion in 2019, Yulo qualified for the Olympics via his ranking in the individual all-around qualifiers. 

He claimed the historic world gold in the men’s floor exercises, and while he continues to dominate the event, his coach Munehiro Kugimiya revealed that Yulo also has the potential to win medals in the vault and parallel bar events. 

In the 2019 SEA Games, Yulo emerged as the country’s most bemedalled athlete with two gold and five silver medals. 

Hidilyn Diaz

WEIGHTLIFTING QUEEN. Hidilyn Diaz will not be satisfied until she clinches the gold.
Josh Albelda/Rappler

Event: Weightlifting – Women’s 55kg 

Date: Monday, July 26

Venue: Tokyo International Forum 

Hidilyn Diaz already has the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medal in her collection, but she won’t be satisfied until she gets the gold.

Diaz will be seeing action in her fourth straight Olympics, but she is bringing with her a full team that will have her back in every moment. 

The weightlifting queen will be competing in the women’s 55kg event, where she hopes to pull off an upset over top-ranked Jiang Huihua of China. 

She has been beefing up her Olympic bid in Malaysia even as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many sporting facilities since March 2020. 


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Hidilyn Diaz

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Hidilyn Diaz

Margielyn Didal

Margielyn Didal
DEBUT. Margielyn Didal will see action in skateboarding’s Olympic debut.
Red Bull Philippines

Event: Skateboarding – Women’s street 

Date: Monday, July 26 

Venue: Ariake Urban Sports park 

Margielyn Didal is bringing her spunk to Tokyo as she aims to complete a golden trio after dominating the 2018 Asian Games and 2019 SEA Games street events. 

Didal, ranked No. 13 in the world, has made waves in the world skateboarding scene as she bagged this year’s Asia Skater of the Year award. She was also named to the prestigious awards lists of several publications such as the 2018 TIME Magazine’s most influential teens and the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30

Though she was able to win over bets from top skateboarding countries like Japan during the Asiad, Didal is preparing her own bag of tricks to go against top-ranked skaters like Brazil’s Pamela Rosa and Japanese Aori Nishimura. 

The 22-year-old spent most of her time training in Cebu during the pandemic lockdown, and managed to build a skate park in the process. 


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Margielyn Didal

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Margielyn Didal

Eumir Marcial

TOP PUG. Eumir Marcial aims to make the most out of his Olympic stint.
Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Event: Boxing – Men’s middleweight 

Date: Wednesday, July 28 

Venue: Kokugikan Arena 

Eumir Marcial’s dream to represent flag and country in the Olympics will finally be realized. 

After a heartbreaking result in the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifiers, Marcial slowly worked his way to the top, bagging a silver in the 2019 world championships, a gold in the 2019 SEA Games, and a gold in the Tokyo 2020 Asia and Oceania Olympic qualifiers

Although he decided to turn pro during the COVID-19 pandemic, he continued to commit to don the Philippines’ colors. 

Marcial hopes to show his world-class preparations from mentors like Freddie Roach and Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines coaches in his Los Angeles and Colorado training camps as he shoots for boxing glory

The 25-year-old was also selected as the country’s male flag bearer in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, July 23 after EJ Obiena had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts.

Nesthy Petecio

WORLD CHAMPION. Nesthy Petecio looks to pull off another stellar win.
Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Event: Boxing – Women’s featherweight

Date: Saturday, July 24 

Venue: Kokugikan Arena 

Nesthy Petecio hopes there will be no heartbreaks this time. 

Petecio has been a victim of crucial losses, including a controversial defeat in the 2018 Asian Games. She also initially fell short of a clinching an Olympic berth in the Asia and Oceania qualifiers. 

But now that she is given a chance to be in the Olympic stage, she hopes to deliver big once again. 

In 2019, Petecio was crowned the women’s boxing world champion that ended the country’s seven-year gold medal drought since Josie Gabuco copped the gold in the light flyweight event. 

Petecio also capped off her stellar year with a 2019 SEA Games gold

Irish Magno

HISTORY. Irish Magno is the first Filipina boxer to qualify for the Olympics.
Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Event: Boxing – Women’s flyweight

Date: Sunday, July 25 

Venue: Kokugikan Arena 

Irish Magno made history as the first Filipina boxer to punch her way to the Olympics. 

The 2019 SEA Games silver medalist finally made it to the country’s sports history after winning the box-off for one of six Olympic slots in the women’s flyweight event in the Asia and Oceania qualifiers. 

Magno donned the national colors in three of the last four editions of the SEA Games, winning a bantamweight bronze medal in 2013 and flyweight silver medals in 2015 and 2019.

The Iloilo native continues to inspire many Filipinos with her story as boxing became a way for her to provide for her family members by sending them to school and building a house for them.

Carlo Paalam

YOUNG BLOOD. Carlo Paalam looks to bank on his youth in the Olympics.
Asian Games media pool

Event: Boxing – Men’s flyweight

Date: Monday, July 26 

Venue: Kokugikan Arena 

Having collected medals in the SEA Games and Asian Games in recent years, the Philippine delegation’s youngest Olympic boxer hopes to pull off another surprise in Tokyo. 

Though the Cagayan de Oro native fell short in the continental qualifiers, Carlo Paalam’s rising performance earned him an Olympic berth along with Pinay star Nesthy Petecio. 

At 19 years old, Paalam won a breakthrough medal in a major competition by copping a 2018 Asian Games bronze, and followed it up with a gold in the 2019 SEA Games in front of the home crowd. 

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is set to culminate his turnaround from being a garbage scavenger as a kid before he discovered boxing. 

Yuka Saso

yuka saso
MAJOR CHAMPION. Yuka Saso emerges as the country’s first major golf champion after her 2021 US Women’s Open triumph.
Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports/Reuters

Event: Women’s golf

Date: Wednesday, August 4 

Venue: Kasumigaseki Golf Club 

After winning the 2021 US Women’s Open title, Yuka Saso emerged as a vital contender for the country’s first Olympic gold. 

Now that she has become one of the golfers to watch in the world, the Filipino-Japanese hopes to gain home court advantage in her Olympic campaign, as she also made her pro debut in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. 

Saso rose to Philippine sporting prominence after she struck a double gold in the 2018 Asian Games. 

Though she skipped the 2019 SEA Games, the women’s golf world No. 8  finally reached her professional golf dreams after qualifying for the JLPGA and impressed with back-to-back golds in her rookie year. 

As she became the first Filipino major golf tournament winner, Saso qualified for the LPGA where she will regularly go against the world’s best. 


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Yuka Saso

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Yuka Saso

Bianca Pagdanganan

POWER PLAYER. Bianca Pagdanganan tops the 2020 LPGA Tour average driving distance rankings.
2020 Getty Images/LPGA

Event: Women’s golf

Date: Wednesday, August 4 

Venue: Kasumigaseki Golf Club 

Bianca Pagdanganan should not be counted out for an Olympic medal. 

In her rookie season in the LPGA, Pagdanganan made headlines when she finished at ninth place in the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championships.

The 23-year-old also set a world record leap after her top 10 finish in her first major tournament, putting her in the watch list of rising golfers. 

She capped off her amateur career with a SEA Games gold in 2019 after she teamed up with Saso for the 2018 Asian Games team gold, while bagging her own Asiad bronze in the individual event. 

The golfing world took notice of Pagdanganan’s driving distance – a skill she hopes to work to her advantage in the Tokyo Olympics. 

Must Watch

Rappler Talk Sports: Bianca Pagdanganan in 2020 LPGA Championship top 10 finish

Rappler Talk Sports: Bianca Pagdanganan in 2020 LPGA Championship top 10 finish

Juvic Pagunsan

VETERAN. Juvic Pagunsan hopes to ride on his 2021 Mizuno Open conquest.

Event: Men’s golf 

Date: Thursday, July 29 

Venue: Kasumigaseki Golf Club 

Juvic Pagunsan finally cracked into the biggest stage of sports after dominating the local golf scene in the early 2000s.

Pagunsan is the oldest member of the Philippine delegation at 43 years old, but age doesn’t define his capabilities in the sport. 

The Bacolod native marked his resurgence in the 2021 Mizuno Open where he claimed the title with a three-stroke margin. 

As the former Asian Tour top earner has been playing in the professional Japan Golf Tour since 2012, he also hopes his veteran experience and  familiarity with the country’s climate will work to his advantage. 

Must Read

Kiyomi Watanabe

Kiyomi Watanabe
FLAG BEARER. Kiyomi Watanabe is set to take the stage for the opening ceremony.
Adrian Portugal/Rappler

Event: Judo – Women’s -63kg 

Date: Tuesday, July 27 

Venue: Nippon Budokan 

Kiyomi Watanabe hopes to translate her dominance in the Southeast Asian level to the rest of the world. 

The judoka has proven countless times that she is the best in the region with four straight SEA Games golds

Though she fell short of a gold in the 2018 Asian Games, Watanabe is aiming to get an extra boost of support from both the Filipinos and Japanese in her Olympic campaign. 

Watanabe will also take the stage alongside Marcial in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as the female flag bearer of the Philippines. 

Elreen Ando

BEGINNINGS. Elreen Ando is looking to become a consistent contender in the weightlifting world.
Elreen Ando’s Facebook

Event: Weightlifting – Women’s 64kg 

Date: Tuesday, July 27

Venue: Tokyo International Forum 

Twenty-two-year-old Elreen Ando follows Hidilyn Diaz’s footsteps in becoming a contender in the world stage. 

Her recent two silver and one bronze conquest in the Asian Weightlifting Championships propelled her to snag a maiden Olympic berth via continental allocation. 

Ando will be representing her hometown in Cebu City as she has been training there during the entire duration of the pandemic lockdown in the Philippines. 

The 2019 SEA Games silver medalist hopes to ride on her hot momentum to surprise the competition and continue the glory of Philippine weightlifting.

Must Read

From Cebu to Tokyo: Elreen Ando fulfills Olympic dream

From Cebu to Tokyo: Elreen Ando fulfills Olympic dream

Cris Nievarez

Cris Nievarez
OPENER. Cris Nieveraz is set to kick off the Philippines’ Olympic campaign in the men’s single sculls event.
Asics Philippines

Event: Rowing – Men’s single sculls

Date: Friday, July 23 

Venue: Sea Forest Waterway

Cris Nievarez is Philippine rowing’s beacon of resurgence.

The 21-year-old native from Atimonan, Quezon, became the first Filipino rower to qualify for the Olympics since sport legend Benjie Tolentino in the 2000 Sydney edition 

Nievarez will be the first athlete Filipinos can cheer on as he opens the country’s Olympic campaign early on Friday, July 23 in the heats of the men’s single sculls event. 

The 5-foot-11 rowing prodigy is motivated to show how much he has progressed since winning the 2019 SEA Games gold. 


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Cris Nievarez

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Cris Nievarez

Kurt Barbosa

Kurt Barbosa
LONE QUALIFIER. Kurt Barbosa is the only Filipino taekwondo jin to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
World Taekwondo

Event: Taekwondo – Men’s -58kg 

Date: Saturday, July 24 

Venue: Makuhari Messe Hall

Kurt Barbosa fulfilled Philippine taekwondo’s Olympic dreams just when all hope seemed lost. 

The 22-year-old didn’t start out among the cream of the crop as he tried and failed to make it to the national team before his breakthrough rookie-MVP performance for National University in the UAAP in 2018. 

His achievements did not stop in the local arena as he gained experience from competing and training internationally in 2019 in preparation for his SEA Games title romp in front of his countrymen. 

The native of Bangued, Abra hopes to use his newfound confidence from the Asian qualifiers where he staged a personal record comeback to secure a clutch victory for the Olympic spot


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Cris Nievarez

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Cris Nievarez

Jayson Valdez

OLYMPIC DREAM. Jayson Valdez did not expect to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Event: Shooting – Men’s air rifle 10m 

Date: Sunday, July 25 

Venue: Asaka shooting range

Jayson Valdez was long prepared and just answered the call. 

Valdez, who dreamt of competing in the Olympics since he was young, accepted the Tokyo 2020 slot awarded to him by the International Shooting Sports Federation via quota allocation. 

The 25-year-old will be the first Filipino to participate in Olympic shooting since Paul Brian Rosario in the 2012 London Games

Valdez participated in the 2010 and 2018 Asian Games, and is a bronze medalist in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.

Kristina Knott

MILESTONES. Kristina Knott is set to don the national colors in the centerpiece event.
Josh Albelda/Rappler

Event: Athletics – Women’s 200m run

Date: Monday, August 2 

Venue: Olympic stadium 

Since officially joining the Philippine team three years ago, Kristina Knott is set to add the Olympics to her list of milestones after the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. 

Knott impressed the Filipino crowd when she smashed the SEA Games record twice in one day in the women’s 200m event. 

She currently holds the Philippine record of 23.01 seconds, which she set in the country’s hosting of the regional biennial meet in 2019.

The University of Miami standout is now up to challenge the world’s fastest in the quadrennial meet’s centerpiece event.


Remedy Rule

RISING STAR. Remedy Rule hopes to hit her personal bests in the Olympics.
Remedy Rule’s Instagram

Event: Swimming – Women’s 100m butterfly, Women’s 200m butterfly

Date: Saturday, July 24 (100m butterfly), Tuesday, July 27 (200m butterfly) 

Venue: Tokyo Aquatics Center

Remedy Rule is out to prove that she is Philippine swimming’s new sensation. 

The Filipino-American inched close to the FINA A qualifying time of the women’s 200m butterfly (2 minutes, 8 seconds and 43 milliseconds) when she clocked 2:09.58 at the 2020 Pro Swim Series in Des Moines, Iowa.

She is entered in the 100m butterfly with a seed time of 59.55 seconds after she surpassed the B-cut time of 59.56 seconds in the TYR Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, California last April.

The University of Texas standout is already accustomed to competing with top swimmers in the US and graduated as a 13-time Big 12 champion. 

After representing the Philippines for the first time in the 2019 FINA World Championships, she saw action in the 2019 SEA Games, where she won a silver in the 200m butterfly and a bronze in the 200m freestyle. 

Luke Gebbie

MAKING WAVES. Luke Gebbie is a Philippine swimming record holder.
Screenshot from Youtube

Event: Swimming – Men’s 100m freestyle, Men’s 50m freestyle

Date: Tuesday, July 27 (100m freestyle), Friday, July 30 (50m freestyle) 

Venue: Tokyo Aquatics Center

Luke Gebbie is another new name to watch out for in Philippine swimming. 

The Filipino-Kiwi will be contesting in the highly competitive freestyle discipline and is hopeful in making it to the further rounds. 

Gebbie surpassed the FINA B cut (22.67 seconds) when he recorded 22.57 seconds in the 2021 Australian Olympic Trials last June. 

He also won a bronze medal in the 2019 SEA Games men’s 50m freestyle event.

The 24-year-old still holds the Philippine record of 49.94 seconds in the 100m freestyle, which he set during the 2019 World Championships. –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.