A tall, lanky rower from Quezon Province will kick off the Olympic campaign of a Philippine delegation desperate to clinch its first gold medal.
Cris Nievarez will be the first Filipino to plunge into action as he competes in the preliminaries of the men’s single sculls event tomorrow at the Sea Forest Waterway.
The 21-year-old paddler from a small town of Atimonan in Quezon made it to the Summer Games as a continental pick following a solid performance in the Asia Oceania Qualification Regatta last May.
Although he finished ninth, he was still given an Olympic slot after India, Uzbekistan and Vietnam had already qualified in other events, prompting Nievarez to rise to No. 4 in the standings.
It’s only the third time that the country will be represented in the rowing competition of the Olympics.
The first time was in Seoul in 1988 when Edgardo Maerina saw action followed by Benjie Tolentino who vied in the Sydney Games in 2000.
“For the Philippine Rowing Association to send a representative as part of the Philippine contingent to Tokyo after 20 long years is noteworthy — a feat,” rowing president Patrick Gregorio said in a message to Daily Tribune.
“At only 21 years old, Cris is a promising young Olympian. He has a long way to go. We told him to just do his best, beat your personal record and be the best in Southeast Asia.”
But the battle in the Olympics will not be easy.
Aside from the thrice-a-day saliva test, which are being done before delegates can enter the dining hall, Nievarez will also battle world-class competitors, unfamiliar terrain and unpredictable weather.
In fact, the last time he competed at the mouth of Tokyo Bay, he endured strong winds and cold weather aside from the tight muscles he suffered in the morning before his event.
He only managed to display his usual form when the weather became a little warmer in the afternoon, but he still had to don a long-sleeve uniform to keep him warm.
“Our goal is to get closer to the leader and sustain it until the finish line,” said Nievarez, who trains for one and a half hour a day at the competition venue every day since arriving last Monday.
He added that everything is going well for him headed for the biggest battle of his life.
“We’re only allowed to walk around the Olympic Village. All our needs are provided and the security measures are good,” he said.
Nievarez already drew lots on Wednesday and found out that he will race against foes from Croatia, Benin, Nicaragua, and Russia in Heat 5 across two kilometers starting 9:10 a.m.
A repechage is scheduled on Saturday, if necessary, to choose which three rowers among the second to sixth placers will join the top finisher to the quarterfinals, along with the qualifiers from other heats.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino is also already in Tokyo to witness the first Filipino competitor wade into action.
“I am very excited because this is my chance to face those whom I always watch during world championships,” said Nievarez, who competed in the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Ottensheim, Austria where he and teammate Egan Ilas got a taste of world class competition in the men’s double lightweight sculls.
He said his training went well despite the absence of his Ukrainian coach, Skukrat Ganiev.
With Ganiev failing to secure travel and work documents, Maerina called the shots and made sure to execute his program to perfection at their training site at the La Mesa Dam in Quezon City.
Part of his training was the use of boat that is quite heavier than the one he will use in the Olympics.
“We used heavier boat so it would be easier for me to paddle in the Olympics,” he said.
“All I can say is that I’m ready. Hopefully, I deliver good results to inspire my fellow athletes.”
Date: July 22, 2021 | Newspaper: Tribune | Source: https://tribune.net.ph/index.php/2021/07/22/quezon-rower-jumpstarts-phl-campaign/?fbclid=IwAR15DC7066r4vtjDTbaGY7Z4V6g0u_PK31esv0dp1ZmR_Lu1r01ZN8gj2No&__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=pmd_158a01341d08d3ed2de305bdf1b0554356509c48-1626919396-0-gqNtZGzNAnijcnBszQgi