By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island — A prize catch of making it to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan of which such popular water sport will make its debut has drawn 24 world-class female surfers to eagerly compete here at the 9th Siargao International Women’s Surfing Cup on May 2-6.
Event director Gerry Deagan said despite travel advisories after the Bohol terrorist threat incident, many top rank women surfers from across the globe went out of their way to join the five-day surfing competition after they learned that the World Surf Council (WSL) has sanctioned it as a qualifying series for the Tokyo summer Olympics.
Host Mayor Jaime Rusillon is keeping his fingers crossed their 11 home-grown pride led by top bet Nilbie Blancada will make it to the Olympics qualifiers and bigger stake of bringing home to the country the first ever gold medal.
“This is not far-fetched that we can bring home the elusive gold (medal)after many decades,” Rusillon said.
Blancada, who won the 2016 Asian Surfing Championship Women’s Open after she outpositioned 2015 ASC women’s champion Rina Kitazawa from Japan in the 25-minute final that put her into current first place ranking.
It was a grudge match between Blancada and Kitazawa last year after the latter outpointed the top rank Filipina surfer in their grueling finish in ASC women’s division at Cloud 9 Siargao in 2015.
“I have no regrets about that tough rivalry with Rina and just forget about it to focus now with this much-awaited Olympics stake,” Blancada said.
But both top notch Asian women surfers should not be too confident in making it to the WSL top rankings with the presence of current qualifying series number 8 Philippa Anderson of Australia.
Thanks to everyone involved in making this event on schedule. I can’t wait for the warm water and the pumping waves,” Anderson said on the sidelines of the opening ceremony on Tuesday.
“Everything is set,” Russilon said as he assured tight security has been in place in the town to ensure the success of the competition.
“We are happy that our women’s event will now be sanctioned by the WSL and we can’t wait for the first Cloud 9 waves to be conquered by these brave women,” he said.
Frederick Alegre, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Tourism, admitted government security is on full alert for this five-day event even as he assured the police has already thwarted the terrorist attempt of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf in Bohol.
Deagan said there could have been more globally-rated women surfers who earlier signified their interest to join the event but backed out at the last minute because of the travel ban advisories of their countries.
“I asked the world to be more fair on travel advisories,” Alegre appealed in his speech at the opening ceremony as he announced that despite the terrorists threats, tourist visits of 1.2 million from January to February this year was way higher than the same period in 2016.
“We already reached 17 percent of our seven million target for this year,” he said.
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