Thursday, April 7, 2016

Athletics National Open Attracts Top Athletes

Anticipation for the 2016 Ayala Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships is reaching fever-pitch. Over 1,000 athletes have already signed up for the annual athletics meet organized by the PATAFA.

This year’s version of the National open is unique in many ways. First, this year’s championships year marks the forging of a long-term partnership between Ayala Corporation and the PATAFA, after long hours of comprehensive discussions. Hence, the 2016 edition is billed the Ayala Philippine National Open-Invitational Athletics Championships.

In addition, this year’s National Open returns to the Philippine capital, the hub of athletics in the country. The three-day scorching, live, action-packed competition will be held on April 7, 8, and 9 in PhilSports (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig. It will be open to the public.

The competition will kick off at daybreak on April 7 then culminate on April 9 by 5:00pm. On each day, competitions will start at 6 AM and then have a 6-hour mid-day break and resume at 4 P.M. to end at 8 P.M. The six-hour break is to give the competitors and technical officials a respite from the extreme summer heat and to follow international conventional practice

The 2016 Open is anticipated to be a tightly contested championships as the July 11 deadline for the submission of Olympic qualifiers draws near. The championships will showcase the athletic prowess of current members of the national athletics team pitted against the best of the best across the archipelago. This year, expected to provide tough competition are over 1,000 up-and-coming and powerhouse track and field athletes all over the Philippines plus invited young and top-notch athletes from neighboring Asian countries such as South Korea, Malaysia (expected to field teams from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah), Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, Brunei and Mongolia. The Philippines will, on the other hand, field entries from the national team, the national training pool and collegiate leagues like the UAAP, NCAA, SCUAA.

Interest will also be focused on Fil-American standouts from the national team and a new batch of crack Fil-heritage athletes, who have served notice of their desire to participate in the three-day event as part of their plan to join the national team. As members of the national team they will have a shot at competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics and succeeding competitions like the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia, the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines and the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

Leading the Fil-Am charge are Rio Olympics qualifier Eric Cray who will see action in the 100m and 400m Hurdles and currently ranks 38th in the world; Caleb Stuart, the 2015 Southeast Asian Games Hammer Throw record holder; and, Donovant Arriola, bronze medalist in Long Jump in the Singapore SEA Games. A returnee to the Open is Brandon Thomas who has joined Eric Cray as the latter's training partner in Texas. Thomas, who competed in the 2015 National Open in Sta Cruz, Laguna, can run a time good enough to qualify for the 7th Asian Indoor Championship in Doha, Qatar, and hopefully, the World indoors (in Eugene, Oregon). Thomas will compete in the 100 and 200 meter runs.

Hopes are high that a good number of Philippine athletes, with its formidable squad of young and experienced home grown and overseas-trained athletes, will spring surprises in delivering record setting performances in this year’s Open.

A host of crack tracksters from across Asia and the Pacific are expected to mount stiff opposition to the Philippine athletes. Worth anticipating are the performances of Lee Gyu Hyeong and Kim So Yeon from South Korea, and Shanti Pereira of Singapore for the sprints, and Muhd Mat Hasan, Rayzam Wan Sofian, and Raja Azhar of Malaysia in the hurdles event.

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