Nievarez books semis slot in Olympic rowing qualifier

Nievarez books semis slot in Olympic rowing qualifier

MANILA, Philippines – Cris Nievarez topped the men’s singles sculls repechage of the 2021 Asia Oceania Continental Qualification Regatta in Tokyo, Japan Thursday to remain the Philippines’ one last hope of ending a two-decade Olympic drought in rowing.

The 20-year-old Southeast Asian Games gold medalist clocked eight minutes and 11.40 seconds to claim one of the 12 slots to Friday’s two-heat semifinals where the top three of each clinch a finals slot.

And the breadwinner from a poor family from Atimonan, Quezon is praying and hoping he would make it that far as the top five finishers would advance to the quadrennial event.

If it happens, Nievarez, whose campaign is being bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation (MVPSF) would be the first Filipino rower to qualify to the Summer Games since the towering Benjie Tolentino made it to 2000 Sydney Games.

He would also join gymnast Caloy Yulo, pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam and 2016 Rio weightlifting silvermedalist Hidilyn Diaz.

“He’s our last hope,” said national team coach Edgardo Maerina referring to Nevarez, who delivered one of the three golds the country snared in the 2019 SEA Games in Subic Bay.

Nievarez’s effort came a soothing balm to the country’s campaign after SEA Games double gold medal winner Melcah Jean Caballero and Joanie Delgaco and Roque Abala Jr and Zuriel Sumintac all sank out of contention amid the tailwinds and tough grouping they got into.

The Caballero-Delgaco duo wound up only third in the repechage in 8:14.30 while the Abala-Sumintac pair ended fourth in 7:39.35 in the women and men double sculls events where the top two stayed in the Olympic hunt.

“Mabagal talaga time ng lahat dahil sa lakas ng hangin tapos malakas din yung grupo nila,” said Maerina.

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