SIX Filipino surfers will fly middle of this month to El Salvador for the World Surfing Games, a Tokyo Olympics qualifier.
But to punch tickets to Tokyo, the Filipino athletes will have to outperform themselves over the waves of La Bocana and El Sunzal at the Latin American country’s Surf City.
Only the top male and female performers in surfing’s shortboard will qualify for the Games, according to United Philippine Surfing Association (UPSA) President Dr. Jose Raul “George” Canlas.
“It will be tough for our surfers but they are up to the task,” Canlas told BusinessMirror on Tuesday.
The event is set from May 29 to June 6 but the Filipinos will be taking a circuitous flight—Manila-Tokyo-Dallas-San Salvador—on May 17 for them to have at least 12 days of getting used to the waves on that side of the Pacific Ocean.
Canlas said the International Surfing Association dropped the points system to determine who qualifies from Asia in favor of a qualifier that will select only two representatives for each gender from the continent.
The Filipino surfers will be flying in from three points when they rendezvous in Manila on May 15 for a required virus test—John Mark Tokong, Edito Alcala and 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Nilbie Blancada will be flying in from Siargao Island, Rogelio Esquivel Jr. and Daisy Valdez, along with coach Ian Saguan will be coming from San Juan in La Union, while Vea Estrallado will also be flying in from Sorsogon.
Their Australian coaches Adam Duffner and John Carby will fly directly to El Salvador.
Canlas said the Indonesians are the surfers to watch in El Salvador.
“It boils down to between the Philippines and Indonesia for the Asian men’s slot because they are the top surfers in Asia,” said Canlas, also a member of the Philippine Oympic Committee board. “In the women’s side, it will be a toss-up among the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan.
Indonesian Rio Waida, who bagged a silver medal in the 2019 SEA Games in La Union, is considered a major threat to the country’s No. 1 shortboard specialist Tokong and Alcala, Canlas said.
Blancada and 17-year-old Estrallado, on the other hand, will also have to topple another Indonesian ace, Taina Izquerdo, in the women’s contest.
UPSA strength and conditioning coach Ralph Tecson said the surfers’ training were regularly monitored from their respective camps during the pandemic.
SEA Games hero Roger Casugay, also a 2019 SEA Games gold medalist, is not joining the El Salvador qualifier because the longboard is not on the Tokyo program.