The second batch of Filipino athletes bound for Gwangju, South Korea will be departing today, just in time for the 2015 Summer World University Games opening ceremonies scheduled on Friday at the Gwangju Universiade Main Stadium.
They are Philippine Swimming League (PSL) standouts Mari Angelyn Arambulo, Annyka Frances Beatriz Dela Cruz, Cyra Dawn Montano, Celeste Ureta, Paul Jerome Carpio, Jose Clemente Gelito, Van Geriel Igong-igong, Sean Martin Jay Ortega, Jux Keaton Solita, Miguel Thruelen and Mark Jerwin Valdez.
“If ever these young swimmers can no longer make use of it as they already on their senior year, at least a lot of swimmers now are very much aware that is World University Games that they can look up to. A much better competition than Sea Games and Asian Games,” said PSL President Susan Papa.
The first wave of the athletes have already arrived in Gwangju and got a warm reception at the Athlete’s Village.
“The atmosphere is totally different from other regional competitions. It’s like an Olympic Games, you see a lot of world-class athletes roaming around the village,” added Papa.
The World University Games also known as the Universiade is organized by International University Sports Federation under the motto “Excellence in Mind and Body.” It is a multisporting event for university students aiming to promote education and culture as well as building friendship through sports.
It is the largest sporting event next to the Olympics, way better than the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and other regional sporting events.
Joining the Filipino tankers in the second batch are tae kwon do jins Juan Paolo Cipriano (bantamweight), Gabriel Joshua Ancheta (featherweight), Jose Daniel Asuncion (flyweight), Ranielle Paul Ledesma (welterweight), Ann Janeth Garcia (bantamweight), Kimmi Dela Rea (lightweight) and Bonna Lyrh Magcalayo (welterweight) of sparring, and poomsae bets Allysa Elica Daileg, Joah Lou Lopez and George Chua.
More than 12,000 participants from 170 participating nations all over the world are expected to attend the multisporting event.
Besides tae kwon do and swimming, the other event in this year’s edition of the Universiade are archery, artistic/rhythmic gymnastics, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, diving, fencing, football, golf, handball, judo, rowing, shooting, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and water polo.
Gwangju hosts bullish despite MERS fears
Meanwhile, the World University Games will open in Gwangju with defiant organizers predicting a record participation despite the backdrop of a deadly respiratory disease sweeping host nation South Korea.
The outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) last month, which has so far killed 33 out of 182 infected patients, coupled with North Korea’s sudden decision to boycott the Universiade have cast a cloud resulting in waning ticket sales.
But organizers remain bullish and said that more than 13,000 athletes and officials from 145 countries are expected to participate from July 3 to14 in Gwangju, a southwestern city 280 kilometers (168 miles) from the capital Seoul.
“Despite the recent outbreak of MERS, the level of participation and encouragement is higher than ever,” Anna Jihyun You, spokeswoman for the Gwangju Universiade organising committee, told Agence France-Presse.
The Universiade, held every two years and run by the International University Sports Federation, is a multi-sport event for university athletes and often serves as a stage for future Olympic stars.
The MERS virus has caused widespread public anxiety, with more than 120,000 overseas visitors cancelling planned trips to South Korea since the outbreak.
Ray of hope
Organizers admitted they were very anxious but vowed to ensure a safe and secure competition with stringent hygiene protocols.
Nevertheless some athletes have pulled out with a third of Hong Kong’s 100-strong team — in gymnastics, rowing, diving, golf and fencing — opting to stay at home after the southern Chinese city issued a South Korea travel warning to its citizens.
“We will protect athletes and officials thoroughly from arrival to departure,” Gwangju mayor Yoon Jang-Hyun, president of the organizing committee, said.
Medical staff with advanced equipment will guard and conduct meticulous checks on all venues and other facilities to monitor athletes and visitors.
“The organizing committee has not only turned around such challenging circumstances, but also sparked a ray of hope throughout the nation,” You said.
WITH REPORT FROM AFP