Expect dogfight in PH Open
IT’S going to be a dogfight as Olympian Eric Cray and other Filipino-American and homegrown stars shoot for their slots in the national team when they compete in the 2017 Ayala Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships.
Cray, the Texas native who represented the country in the London and Rio Olympics, will be back in action as he leads close to 1,000 from around the world in this ultimate battle that is set from March 30 to April 2 at the Ilagan Sports Complex in Ilagan City in the province of Isabela.
In the press launch yesterday, Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico declared that the tournament would serve as the final selection stage for the national team that would compete in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August.
Juico said topnotch athletes from Sri Lanka, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guam and Brunei are all tipped to come up with a serious fight, making this tournament one of the toughest and most competitive in recent years.
In fact, rising star Savinder Kaur Singh of Malaysia confirmed her attendance as well as Raja Azhar, who is expected to dominate the women’s 100-meter hurdles.
Also expected to steal the show is Nimali Liyanarachchi of Sri Lanka, the reigning champion in the women’s 800-meter of the South Asian Games last year. She would be competing in the 400-meter run, where she has a personal best of 53.9 seconds.
“This is going to be a serious test for our athletes,” said Juico, who is also a former chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission.
“Technically speaking, nobody has yet to qualify (in the national team) among our athletes. This tournament will serve as the gauge. They have to overcome some of the best athletes before we can give them a slot in the team.”
Former Ilagan City Mayor Jay Diaz said they are making sure that no stone will be left unturned in their hosting of this prestigious tournament, which is co-presented by Milo, PSC and the International Amateur Athletic Federation and backed by Foton Philippines, UCPB Gen and Run Rio.
He said the all the hotels, venues, security, transportation and even the tourist attractions are already ready and their constituents are looking forward to witness topnotch track and field action.
“Everything is almost ready. I think we’re about 95 percent ready for the hosting of this prestigious tournament,” said Diaz, speaking on behalf of his wife, Ilagan City Mayor Evelyn Diaz.
“We acceded to the preparation and everything is almost done. We’re making sure that all the athletes will have a comfortable stay so they can give out their best performance.”
Aside from Cray, who will vie in the men’s 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles, also seeing action for the host country are SEA Games hammer throw record-holder Caleb Stuart, Donovant Arriola, Jessica Barnard, Tyler Ruiz, Kyla and Kayla Richardson as well as a score from the national pool and collegiate leagues.