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Rower Chris Nievarez gets surprise Tokyo Olympic slot

Rower Chris Nievarez gets surprise Tokyo Olympic slot

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

Until the good news came — the 21-year-old Southeast Asian Games gold medalist has received a slot in the Tokyo Games in July.

Nievarez placed only 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.

“Sobrang saya, hindi ko mapaliwanag. Nagulat ako sa announcement,” said Nievarez, who was already set to go straight to La Mesa Dam to resume training after the mandatory quarantine in their Quezon City hotel.

Nievarez thus became the country’s eighth Tokyo-bound athlete next to pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Caloy Yulo, boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam and 2016 Rio weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz.

The breadwinner of a poor family 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 drought for a Filipino rower.

The last one to make it that far was Benjie Tolentino in 2000 in Sydney.

He will also be the third from the country to step on Olympic soil after current national team coach Ed Maerina emerged the first rower Olympian 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, its time to pick up that oar and learn to row,” he added.

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

“We’re proud of you and you’re an inspiration too for our athletes and youth,” said Tolentino.

“We are happy for Nievarez and PRA to represent the country in Tokyo,” said Ramirez.

As this developed, Maerina announced Uzbk coach Shukrat Ganiev will arrive soon to help Nievarez as well as the rest of the national rowers prepare for the Hanoi Southeast Asian Games in November.

“Kasama sana sya (Ganiev) sa Japan kaya lang nagkaproblema sa mga documentation. Malapit na sya dumating,” said Maerina.