TOKYO—Cris Nievarez opens the Philippines’ Tokyo Olympics campaign in the men’s singles sculls of rowing on Friday at the Seaforest Waterway on Tokyo Bay.
Nievarez has set a modest goal of finishing at least third in his star-laden heat to advance deep into the event.
“The target is to beat Nicaragua and Benin,” Nievarez, 21, said on Thursday, a day before the pandemic Olympics open at the National Stadium.
Nievarez must beat Nicaragua’s Felix Potoy and Benin’s Privel Hinkati in order for him to wind up third in Heat 5, where Croatia’s Damir Martin, silver medalist at Rio 2016, and Alexander Vyazovkin, a three-time world indoor (ergo) champion, are expected to dominate.
There are six heats in men’s singles sculls of rowing and the top three in each heat will advance to the quarterfinals.
Those who miss the top three will battle it out in Saturday’s repechage where the top two performers move on to the quarterfinals on Sunday.
“Cris has prepared himself physically and mentally for this, he knows these are the Olympics and he understands the magnitude of the games,” Nievarez’s coach, many-time national rower Edgardo Maerina, said.
“I prepared hard during the small window since I got my qualification for the games,” said Nievarez, who earned a continental quota slot for the event from the sport’s international federation only in May.
A native of Sariaya in Quezon, Nievarez is the only Southeast Asian qualifier in men’s singles sculls and one of only five Asians—Iraq, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Japan—in the event that will be raced over 2,000 meters.
“We are taking it one race at a time and we hope that Cris makes it as No. 3 in his heat tomorrow [Friday],” rowing association treasurer Magnum Membrere said.