MANILA, Philippines — 2021 is hoping to bring a busier and more eventful year for Philippine sports after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic stymied most of sports in 2020.
Eager to make up for lost time, a stacked calendar is expected to make Philippine athletes busy following forced hiatus due to the health crisis.
Now with adjustments hopefully making sports' new normal possible, the Filipino sports world can look forward to a busy schedule.
International competitions await
The biggest sporting events expected to banner 2021 is, of course, the delayed Tokyo Summer Games penciled in July.
A year removed from its original start date, Japan is hopeful in hosting the quadriennial event which was held off last year in an unprecedented decision that saw the first Olympic postponement in peace time.
As of the new year, four Filipinos make up the Philippine contingent in the Olympics so far.
Pole vaulter EJ Obiena, Gymnast darling Carlos Yulo, and pugs Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno, have all qualified for the postponed Olympic games.
Scores more are expected to vie for a ticket in sports' biggest stage like skateboarder Margielyn Didal, boxing world champion Nesthy Petecio, Karateka Junna Tsukii, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and golfer Yuka Saso.
Apart from the Olympics, the 31st Southeast Asian Games will also kick off this year, beginning late November until early December.
The Philippines, who were the general champions back in 2019, will look to repeat when the biennial games come to Vietnam.
With only 40 sports expected to be played in the down-sized regional games, Team Philippines will need to work more to take top honors away from home ground.
Meanwhile, Gilas Pilipinas will also hope to participate in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup in August, with Jakarta, Indonesia picked as hosts.
The final window of the qualifiers for the regional basketball tournament, will take place in February with Clark, Pampanga chosen as one of the hosts for the bubble qualifiers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippine Azkals, for their part, will continue in their quest for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, when the joint qualifiers resume in March.
Local leagues return after long hiatus
While international competitions fill up the calendars for 2021, local leagues are also looking to make up for lost time with a number of tournaments lined up for a comeback.
Volleyball leagues Premier Volleyball League (PVL), and the Philippine Super Liga are expected to bring volleyball action back to the country after almost a year of hiatus.
The PVL is planning its debut as a professional league in April, after missing out on holding its season in 2020.
Per PVL official Ricky Palou, the country's first-ever women's professional volleyball league is planning to open on April 10 with eight teams expected to participate.
For its part, the PSL has yet to pencil in a final date for its indoor tournaments, but a beach volleyball competition is slated for February 25 to 27 in Subic.
In other sports, the Philippine Basketball Association is looking to hold its 46th season by April, in either the same bubble set-up or a less stingent closed circuit setup.
The country's first-ever women's professional basketball league, the Women's National Basketball League, is also expected to make its pro debut some time early this year.
The Philippine Football League, which successfully held its season last year in a bubble setup, is also looking to hold a tournament in the first half of the year with a possible expanded cast.
Another professional debut is also set for 2021 with the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines planning to hold a pro tournament this year.
Collegiate leagues like the UAAP, and the NCAA, on the other hand, are also expecting to hold tournaments if it is deemed safe for its student-athletes.
If all goes well with the leagues planning their return, Philippine sports fans and athletes alike will be treated to an action-filled 2021.
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