Nievarez bound for Tokyo

Nievarez bound for Tokyo

1st Philippine rower in Olympics since 2000

MANILA, Philippines — Chris Nievarez and the rest of the Philippine rowing team arrived in the country last Sunday from what they had thought was a failed campaign in the 2021 Asia Oceania Continental Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tokyo, Japan.

Until the good news yesterday came along: The 21-year-old 2019 SEA Games gold medalist has earned a slot in the Tokyo Games in July.

Nievarez placed ninth overall in the men’s singles sculls but received a berth since Japan, which swept all four events, and Iran, which earned three podium finishes, were allowed only a maximum of two seats each in the coming Olympics.

That left the door open for Nievarez.

“Sobrang saya, hindi ko mapaliwanag. Nagulat ako sa announcement,” said Nievarez. He was set to proceed to La Mesa Dam to resume training after the mandatory quarantine in a Quezon City hotel when told of the positive development.

Nievarez became the eighth Filipino athlete to qualify for the delayed Tokyo Games next to pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Caloy Yulo, boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam and 2016 Rio Olympics weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz.

The dedicated athlete from Atimonan, Quezon, whose training and Japan trip were sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation (MVPSF), Smart and Maynilad, also ended a 21-year Olympic absence for a Filipino rower.

The last Pinoy rower to vie in the Olympics was Benjie Tolentino in 2000 in Sydney with Ed Maerina, now the head coach, being the first in 1988 in Seoul.

“This is a historic day for Philippine rowing,” said Philippine Rowing Association (PRA) president Patrick Gregorio. “Let this be the start of growth of the growth of rowing in the Philippines. This is our time. It’s time to pick up that oar and learn how to row.”

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino and PSC chairman William Ramirez both lauded Nievarez for his feat.