Filipino-American cyclist Daniel Caluag qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games, becoming the eighth athlete set to carry the Philippine colors in the world’s biggest sports gathering scheduled from July 27 to August 12 in London.
The 25-year-old Caluag, the son of a Filipino couple from Bulacan who migrated to the US many years ago, figured prominently in three tough qualifying tournaments to get the needed high-ranking points and emerge as the only Asian to make it to the BMX event.
“I knew from the start that Caluag would get it. He really trained and worked hard to earn the slot,” said Philcycling president and Tagaytay City mayor Bambol Tolentino yesterday.
Tolentino, along with SMART, backed another Filipino making a bid for the London Games, but Alexis Vergara wasn’t as lucky.
Vergara struggled in the UCI BMX world championship in Birmingham, England recently after good showings in the Asian championships in Hong Kong in March and the Supercross World Cup in Chula Vista, California last month. He missed out on the Olympic starting field of 60.
According to Tolentino, a huge field of 175 riders from all over the world saw action in the Birmingham World Cup, a testament to the toughness of the qualifying series in this sport which made its debut in the Beijing Olympics.
Philippine team Chief of Mission Manny Lopez confirmed the qualification of Caluag, a four-time BMX top pro in the US, after receiving an e-mail from the London Organizing Committee for Olympic Games the other day.
“We are proud to have Mr. Caluag on our team. We know he’ll be a big asset to our small group. And becoming the only Asian to qualify is indeed gratifying,” said Lopez.
The seven others who have qualified are swimmers Jessie King Lacuna and Jasmine Alkhaldi, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, skeet shooter Brian Rosario, long jumper Marestella Torrres and steeplechaser Rene Herrera.
Lopez is hoping one or two more athletes from archery and weightlifting will qualify to match his target of 10 Filipino Olympians, still five short of the total that carried the national colors in Beijing.
Team Philippines to London is sponsored by ICTSI, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Mizuno and Samsonite.