MANILA, APRIL 23, 2008
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - The chef-de-mission of the Philippine delegation to the Beijing Olympics in August is praying for a miracle.

“It’s a long, hard climb. This is probably going to be the toughest Olympics in modern history,” said Monico Puentevella, also the vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

With just over a dozen athletes bound for Beijing, the Philippines’ chances of landing a medal, of any color, in the quadrennial event is definitely not as bright as in previous stints.

“This is going to be a lean and mean group with probably just a maximum of 15 athletes,” Puentevella told yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s UN Avenue.

Puentevella, however, is not giving up.

“Even in the world of sports miracles do happen. Don’t lose hope. And let us not raise false hopes,” said Puentevella who this early is looking forward to the 2012 London Olympics.

“Let’s prepare for 2012,” he said.

The 12 athletes who have so far qualified for Beijing are swimmers Miguel Molina, James Walsh, Ryan Arabejo, Daniel Coakley and Christel Simms, divers Sheila Mae Perez and Ryan Rexel Fabriga, taekwondo’s Tshomlee Go and Mary Antoinette Rivero, boxer Harry Tañamor, archer Mark Javier and shooter Eric Ang.

Two more slots are reserved for athletics even if no Filipino athlete actually qualifies. In the Olympics, all countries are allowed two entries in athletics, being the centerpiece event.

And a few more are trying to catch the last bus through qualifying events that will run through June.

In the 2004 Athens Olympics, 17 Pinoy athletes from six sports – archery, athletics, shooting, boxing, swimming and taekwondo – made it to the Games but failed to win a medal.

Four years earlier, in the 2000 Games in Sydney, 12 Pinoy athletes from five sports also failed to win a medal in the Olympics. These sports were archery, taekwondo, boxing, diving and swimming.

It was in 1996 in Atlanta when boxer Mansueto Velasco won the silver medal in the light-fly silver division. He was one of only 12 athletes in six sports that represented the country in the Olympics.

A total of 29 athletes from 11 sports donned the tri-colors in the 1992 Games in Barcelona where Roel Velasco, elder brother of Mansueto, took the bronze in the same division.

Wesley returns, installed top fave in Battle of GMs Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Newly crowned Dubai Open champion Wesley So makes his first local appearance since his triumph in the United Arab Emirates as he competes in the “Battle of GMs” chess championship firing off tomorrow at the Ateneo de Manila Graduate School of Business at the Rockwell Center in Makati City.

So, the country’s highest-rated player with a 2540 rating, has been installed as the early favorite in the tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

The 14-year-old campaigner from Bacoor, Cavite was personally welcomed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last Monday night by NCFP president Prospero Pichay and NCFP executive/events director Willie Abalos.

“Wesley’s achievement in Dubai is really something that we Filipinos should be proud of. Winning the title against some of the world’s top players is really unthinkable until So did it,” said Pichay.

It will now be the turn of the country’s veteran players to test the mettle of So, headed by GMs Eugene Torre and Rogelio Antonio Jr.

Also in the fold are Singapore-based GM Bong Villamayor, GM Jayson Gonzales and GM-candidates Julio Catalino Sadorra, Rolando Nolte, Richard Bitoon, John Paul Gomez, Fernie Donguines, Hamed Nouri and Oliver Barbosa.

Notably absent are GMs Mark Paragua, Nelson Mariano II and Darwin Laylo. Paragua is currently campaigning in the United States, while Mariano is also based in Singapore.

At stake in the tournament are trophies and cash prizes with the champion pocketing P200,000. The runner-up and the third placer will receive P100,000 and P70,000, respectively.

Catherine Perena, Jedara Docena, Cristy Bernales, Sherily and Shercila Cua head the cast in the ladies side, which also includes Beverly Mendoza, Aices Salvador, Enerose Magno, Ylem Jose, Kimberly Jane Cunanan, Jenny Palomo and Cheradee Chardine Camacho.

The women’s champion will get P50,000, while the runner-up and third placer will receive P40,000 and P30,000, respectively.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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