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Making the Olympics just half the job as Nievarez crams to prove he belongs


Cris Nievarez in action during qualifying two weeks ago in Japan. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Rowing ace Cris Nievarez fully understands the challenges that he must hurdle to flourish in the coming Tokyo Olympics.

Besides his familiarity with the water and windy conditions at Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo, where the rowing competitions have been calendared and where he competed to qualify, Nievarez sees the need to build muscle strength, endurance and hone his technique to be at par with the world’s best.

These he would all need to have in the next eight weeks or so.

Need for better technique

“These are things that I have to improve on, so I could keep up with the stronger rowers from other countries,” said Nievarez during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, a day after learning that he will be rowing against the world’s best in Tokyo and be one of eight Olympians for the Philippines.

He will be the country’s entry in the men’s single sculls (M1x), an open event where size and speed matter.

While the 5-foot-11 Nievarez should clock at least seven minutes in the 2000-meter race to stay abreast with the competition, the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games champion will be pitted against taller and bulkier opponents.

“I have to work on my technique and try to stick with the medalists during the races,” said Nievarez during the weekly forum backed by Smart, Go For Gold, Milo, Braska, San Miguel Corp. and Amelie Hotel.

Rio 2016 gold medalist Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand and silver medalist Damir Martin of Croatia are among the favorites in the M1x along with Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and Belgium’s Hannes Obreno, all of them clocking below seven minutes on a regular basis.

Foreign coach’s help

Philippine Rowing Association president Patrick Gregorio has expressed hope that the national team’s Uzbek foreign coach Shukhrat Ganiev would arrive soon to guide Team Nievarez in its run-up to the Olympics with two months to go.

“We are hoping to bring in coach Shukhrat as soon as possible with the help of the Philippine Sports Commission and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs),” said Gregorio.

Ganiev, who guided the rowing squad in capturing three gold medals during the previous SEA Games, returned to Uzbekistan in December, but couldn’t return to Manila due to the strict international travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 global crisis.

“We have identified at least three foreign meets where Cris can compete (before the Olympics). But the biggest challenge is the quarantine that Cris should undergo in these countries. It might have an adverse effect on his training regimen,” added Gregorio.

Nievarez has joined weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, gymnast Carlos Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena and boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial in the July 23-Aug. 8 Summer Games. INQ


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