PH athletes unwind before action in Rio

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  • RIO DE JANEIRO—Reeling from jetlag, members of the Philippine delegation, including the six athletes who are already here for the 2016 Rio Olympics, were given the chance to loosen up Monday in this city that has all the trimmings of a major event coming up.

    Except for the Philippine flag bearer, Ian Lariba of table tennis, the rest of the athletes, from long jump specialist Marestella Torres-Sunang, swimmer Jessie Khing Lacuna, taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora and weightlifters Hidilyn Diaz and Nestor Colonia, took it easy the day after their arrival.

    Members of the delegation headed by Jose Romansata could still feel the effects of a back-breaking 25-hour flight from Manila to Rio via Dubai when they got up in the morning. Officials, including the coaches, thought it was better to give everybody some time to recover.

    Lariba just went through the motions under her South Korean coach Mi Sook Kwon, a silver medalist in the 1999 World Championships. But she said she didn’t want to overdo herself and just wanted to break sweat to shake off jetlag.

    “We did just enough,” said Lariba, 21, the first athlete from the Philippines to plunge into action in this Summer Games, being held despite serious concerns on the dreaded Zika virus, security threats and the impending ban on Russian athletes.

    Lariba competes the day after the opening ceremony, most likely in the morning, and ahead of Lacuna, and boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez who will also make their Olympic debut later in the day in different venues.

    Track coach Joebert Delicano decided to give Sunang time to recover from jetlag as well, saying all he did was give the country’s long jump entry a rubdown to soothe her muscles. Besides, he said Sunang practiced hard and did a dozen jumps the day before they left Manila for Rio.

    “Her muscles were tight due to the long flight. She had to stay out of the track at least for today. With another good sleep, her body should feel better tomorrow,” said Delicano, a long jump champion during his prime.

    Weighlifting coach Alfonsito Aldanete said Colonia and Diaz will be at the training venue Tuesday. At the same time, the coach decided not to allow his two athletes to join the opening march because they are scheduled to compete on Aug. 7.

    “Even if it’s two days after the opening ceremony, they have to skip the parade. It’s difficult for weightlifters to be spending a long time standing, especially during the parade, so close to a competition,” said the coach from Zamnboanga City.

    The two boxers, Ladon and Suarez, are all set to fly in from Las Vegas where they trained more than a month for the Olympics. Team official Ed Picson said they’re also contemplating on asking the boxers to skip the Olympic parade.

    Golfer Miguel Tabuena will only arrive in Rio the day after the opening, in time for the golf competition on Aug. 11 to 14.

    Runner Eric Cray is arriving from Houston while marathoner Mary Joy Tabal will be flying in from Japan, in time for the opening.

    The other swimmer from the Philippines, Jasmine Alkhaldi, arrived at the Athletes Village Monday morning with her coach, Jennifer Buffin. They flew in from Hawaii, and said it took them 31 hours to get here.

    “We flew from Hawaii to Dallas then Miami then Rio. What was supposed to be an eight-hour layover in Miami took even longer because of a further two-hour delay,” said the swim coach.

    “It was a very long trip. But it was good,” said Alkhaldi, who stayed indoors the rest of the day.

    Romasanta said it’s more important to make sure the athletes are well rested heading to the competition. While joining the parade is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most athletes, their physical condition is of greater importance.

    When the opening ceremony takes place at the 79,000-seat stadium, only a few athletes, perhaps half a dozen, may end up joining the parade of the 206 competing countries. They will be joined by only a handful officials.

    Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco will arrive on the day of the opening ceremony. He will travel from Manila alone, and has decided to spend a night in San Francisco before flying to Rio than take the 25-hour trip from Manila.

    “I’m not that young anymore,” he said. ( MS sports)

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