A NEW backer of Philippine athletics is here and it wants to stay in the long haul.
The Ayala Corporation is supporting the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association beginning in the Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships all the way to the 2018 Southeast Asian Games and beyond.
This was announced on Tuesday by PATAFA President Philip Ella Juico at the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Shakey’s Restaurant in Malate, where they launched the National Open, slated from April 7 to 9 at the Philsports Complex in Pasig City.
“The Ayala group, which of course, is led by Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, expressed their interest in supporting track and field for several reasons, one of which is we will be hosting the 2019 SEA Games and they want to ensure that we do well in the centerfield event, with athletics having the most number of medals on a stand-alone basis,” said Juico.
“This partnership is broad, is very comprehensive, because it covers elite sports and it supports talent identification, going all the way down to the grassroots. This is also for strengthening the PATAFA as an institution. So malalim ito. I have been authorized to say that yes, there is this longtime partnership that we are forging, I’m sure this will be for the benefit of Philippine sports,” said Juico, who was joined at the Forum by his secretary general Renato Unson, national athletes Caleb Stuart and Chris Ulboc, Milo Sports Executive Robbie de Vera and Asic’s Judith Staples.
That support begins in the coming National Open, where the Philippines’ best athletes, led by Rio Olympic Games qualifier Eric Cray, SEA Games’ hammer throw record holder Stuart, pole vault specialist Emerson Obiena, long jumper Marestella Torres and steeplechase master Ulboc, among others, will pit guts and skills with up-and-coming Filipino standouts and participants from seven visiting countries.
“There is a lady from Singapore (Veronica Shanti Pereira), who gave Kayla Richardson a good fight in the 200, she’ll be here, and also one fellow from Korea but I forgot the name. There are many athletes here who are expected to give our athletes a run for their money,” added Juico in the public sports forum backed by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Shakey’s and Accel.
Pereira took the bronze behind gold medalist Richardson in the women’s 100-meter sprints in the SEAG, but the Singaporean went on the beat the Fil-Am for the gold in the 200-meter dash
Because of the talent-packed rivalries expected to happen, the three-day meet will serve as a perfect ground to prepare members of the national team and budding athletes as well for top-caliber international meets in the coming years.
“Don’t look at the Philippine Open as just a way to qualify for the Olympics. Those joining are also preparing for events beyond 2016,” said Juico.