After ending the medal drought at the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine men’s water polo team guns for a 2020 Tokyo Olympic berth at the Asia Water Polo Championships this February 2020 in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The silver medal finish at the 2019 SEA Games has secured the team a slot at the Asian Olympic Qualifying meet in Kazakhstan, where top Asian teams gather to secure an Olympic slot at this tournament.
“During our team meeting with our coaches after the SEA Games, nabanggit na nila sa amin na nasa calendar of events na namin yang tournament sa Kazakhstan,” said veteran goalie Tani Gomez. “Hopefully matuloy kami kasi magandang tournament yan para sa amin, added experience and exposure yan para sa buong team.”
Only the top team in the Kazakhstan meet will qualify to the Tokyo Olympics.
A total of 12 national teams will earn spots to the Games. Japan, as host, automatically qualifies, while Serbia emerged as the No. 1 team in the FINA World League held in Belgrade. Italy and Spain earned spots after finishing 1-2 in the last World Championship in Gwangju, Korea.
Australia and the United State of America clinched spots after topping their respective OQTs, the Oceania Continental and the Pan American Games.
The remaining six spots will come from Asia’s OQT and the 2020 European Championship in Hungary, while the last berths will come from the top four teams in the World Qualification Tournament in March in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Gomez said that Kazakhstan and China are in the top 20 in the FINA world rankings, and it would be tough for the Filipinos to win the Asian OQT.
Nevertheless, the OQT would be a big boost to the national team as they try to continue to develop in preparation for the Asian Swimming Championship the country will host November 7 to 17, 2020 at the New Clark City in Tarlac.
“Maganda kung mapayagan tayo dun. Yes qualified, but it’s still up to the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) and the PSI (Philippine Swimming Inc.) kung tuloy kami. Sana ok sa kanila para tuluy tuloy yung improvement ng buong team,” said Gomez.
Photo : Evan Grabador