Filipinos back a boxer, of course
A boxer, almost inevitably, carries the Philippines’ main hope of winning a gold medal at the London Olympic Games.
Mark Anthony Barriga, a light-flyweight contender, is the Filipino most likely to take home a medal from the 2012 Games.
Two Filipinos, Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, hold world titles in professional boxing and their supporters will also be behind Barriga when he gets into the ring in England.
The 19-year-old, a quarterfinalist at the world championships in Azerbaijan last year, faces tough odds. Even the executive director of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines, Ed Picson, says so.
"We think he has a decent chance of winning. That is why he is there. If we did not think he had a chance, we would not have sent him."
Barriga, like Pacquiao and Donaire, has a good record. He won titles at the annual Sydney Jackson Memorial Tournament in Uzbekistan in 2011 and this year.
The head of the Philippine Sports Commission, Richie Garcia, also feels Barriga has a “very good chance” of winning. “He seems to have the spirit and determination to win.
"He is not somebody who came out of nowhere. He has a track record and he can win."
The Philippines will have a squad of 11 competitors in London after many promising contenders failed to qualify in their sports.
The country has suffered a long medal drought. Its last podium finish, a silver medal in boxing, came in Atlanta in 1996.
The Philippines have never won a gold medal but did earn bronze medals, also in boxing, in 1992 and 1988.
Garcia, whose agency is in charge of funding national athletics programmes, favours a proposal to bring in more foreign coaches.
The boxing association is considering hiring a "consultant", possibly from Kazakhstan, the United States or Britain, to help upgrade its programme, Picson said.