Sports

Time’s running out for national grapplers


Southeast Asian (SEA) Games wrestling gold medalists Noel Norada and Jason Baucas hardly had any mat time with a sparring partner for over a year.

Fellow national grappler Alvin Lobreguito, a SEA Games silver medalist, has been tied to his military duties along with Norada since the COVID-19 crisis began, likewise preventing him from kicking off an honest-to-goodness training.

That’s why Wrestling Association of the Philippines chief Alvin Aguilar hopes they can gather in a bubble soon and prepare for the Olympic qualification in the coming World Wrestling Championships.

“We have requested for that a long time ago. Training online and very sporadic training are close to useless as we are a contact sport,’’ Aguilar told the Inquirer.

Rescheduled qualifier

The world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, which has been rescheduled to June, is the only window left open for the national grapplers to gain entry into the Tokyo Olympics set on July 23-Aug. 8.

A consistent face-to-face training held on a daily basis, however, isn’t the only thing that troubles Aguilar.

“Our military athletes have been serving as front-liners and some even got infected twice,’’ said Aguilar, without revealing the identities of his athletes.

The lack of time on the mat, and the travel restrictions being implemented by the government due to the rising cases of COVID-19, have already prompted the national wrestlers to forgo the Asian Wrestling Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on April 11-12.

“For now, we are focused on going to the Olympic qualifiers in Bulgaria. The Asian championships in Kazakhstan might also change their rules regarding quarantine, so it’s touch and go everywhere,’’ said Aguilar.

List of hopefuls

Joining Norada (men’s Greco-Roman 63kg), Baucas (men’s Greco-Roman 72kg) and Lobreguito (men’s freestyle 57kg) in the Olympic qualification is Jiah Pingot, a women’s 50kg freestyle grappler who claimed a silver medal in the previous SEA Games.

They are included in the list of 76 athletes from 18 sports who are vying for Olympic spots to join pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam in Tokyo.

Combat sports such as wrestling have been prohibited since the series of lockdowns began in March last year and would need clearance from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases for them to engage in a bubble training.


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