MANILA - The just-concluded Southeast Asian Games may have unveiled potential world-beaters for the Philippines but a "tough journey" awaits them before they are in with a shot at the country's first ever Olympic gold, sports officials said Thursday.
Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Tom Carrasco said that the five Filipino boxers who won gold at the SEA Games in Singapore stood the best chance but even they will have to place in qualifying tournaments before reaching the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
"It's really a tough journey but I don't think we should stop trying," he said.
An Olympic gold medal has long eluded the Philippines and the closest it has come is two silvers in boxing in 1964 and 1996.
The Philippines has the dubious distinction of being the country with the most Olympic medals without a single gold, the website Olympstats said.
"The Southeast Asian Games is really far from the standards needed to qualify for the Olympics," Carrasco told AFP.
"The best chance (for a medal) are the boxers, possibly athletics. They have a new management, new coaches," he said.
Among the SEA Games Filipino medallists, only Eric Cray, who won golds in the 100-metre and 400-metre hurdles, has already qualified for the Olympics after passing the standard in a meet in Los Angeles before the start of the Singapore games.
Even the executive director of the Philippine amateur boxing board, Ed Picson, who is credited for the boxing medals in Singapore, is less than confident of the Philippines' chances.
"This (the SEA Games) is just a regional tournament," he told AFP.
The Filipino pugilists will start training next week for qualifying tournaments like the Asian championships in August and then the world championships later, he said.
Once there, the Filipinos will have to face boxing powerhouses like China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia, on the way to the Olympics, Picson warned.