Officials Outnumber Athletes In London

MANILA, Phililppines --- The Philippines will have more officials than athletes when the Philippine delegation touches down in London for the Olympic Games next month.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia said yesterday that the nine Filipino athletes will be joined by about 16 officials from the PSC, Philippine Olympic Committee and coaches of the competitors.

Garcia said each athlete is entitled to bring a coach. It is also expected that there will be a medical group and a few other assistants for the team.

Garcia is hoping that one or two more would make it to London since a six-man team from archery is currently campaigning in Utah.

Those who have qualified are swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna, tracksters Marestela Torres and Rene Herrera, shooter Brian Rosario, BMX rider Daniel Caluag, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.

Diaz was the last among the nine to qualify and Garcia seemed to emphasize that Diaz is not a wild card entry "but a legitimate qualifier."

Although Diaz failed to actually qualify in two events held in France and in South Korea, her strong showing in these events were noticed by the International Weightlifting Federation which picked her at the last minute.

Whether Diaz qualified legitimately or not, sports officials have been criticized for failing to send actual qualifiers to the London Olympics despite the huge budget allotted to the PSC and generous private sector support given to various athletes and organizations.

In fact, none of the nine athletes going to London made it through actual qualifying competition. They made it either through the backdoor, international federations' wild card program or International Olympic Committee-mandated entries.

Presented to the press yesterday, Diaz lamented the lack of support for her sport.

"Dito kasi sa Pilipinas, talagang down kami," said the 21-year-old Diaz who is competing in her second straight Olympics.

She hopes to see the sport get some support in the future.

Meantime, the Zamboanga City lass hopes to improve on her Beijing showing by having more confidence.

Diaz said she was nervous when she competed in Beijing and said she'll handle the pressure better this time.

"Meron na akong experience ngayon kaya 'di hindi na ako magugulat 'di gaya noon na talagang...," said Diaz, her facial expression assuming the look of a small-town singer suddenly catapulted into the big stage.