POC wants more Filipino athletes at 2026 Winter Games

Asa Miller was the only athlete to represent the Philippines at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Denis Balibouse, Reuters.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) encourages relevant National Sports Associations (NSAs) to seek out athletes – both local and traditional – who can qualify for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina in Italy.

“It’s time to look for other talents not only in alpine skiing, but also in other events like figure skating, bobsleigh, curling, snowboarding, freestyle skiing and cross-country skiing,” said POC President, Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino. “I believe there are a lot of talents overseas with Filipino blood who can represent the country.”

Asa Miller was the country’s only representative at the Beijing Winter Games in giant slalom and men’s slalom. The two-time Winter Olympian recorded DNFs (did not finish) in both races.

Tolentino said the POC would not hesitate to recruit more athletes with the help of the Philippine Ski and Snowboard Federation and the Philippine Skating Union. These NSAs are led by Jim Apelar and Nikki Cheng respectively.

“We will explore Winter Games sports and try to find more Filipino talent,” Tolentino said. “I believe there are disciplines in which we can excel.”

Tolentino said that despite Miller’s mishap in Beijing, qualifying in two events alone is already worth being proud of.

“Representing ourselves twice at the Winter Olympics is absolutely important to us as a tropical nation,” he said. “We are always proud of Asa.”

The Philippines was the first tropical nation – also from Southeast Asia – to compete in the Winter Olympics with cousins ​​Ben Nanasca and Juan Cipriano qualifying for alpine skiing at the Sapporo Games in 1972.

Only four other Filipinos, however, have made it to the Winter Games – luger Raymond Ocampo (1988 Calgary), alpine skier Michael Turuel (1992 Albertville), figure skater Michael Christian Martinez (2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang) and Miller (Pyeongchang and Beijing) .

Apelar said he believed Miller would return for his third Winter Olympics, but named five other potential youngsters who have bright futures in winter sports. They are 19-year-old alpine skier Brandon Leitner, 21-year-old freestyle mogul skier Melvin Kangas, 24-year-old snowboard athlete Adrian Lee Tongko and 19-year-old skier Ana Noelle Wahleithner.

Cheng, on the other hand, said his NSA is betting on 18-year-old short track speed skater Julian Macaraeg and 16-year-old figure skater Sofia Frank.

Philippine Olympic Committee, POC, Winter Olympics, 2026 Winter Olympics, figure skating, alpine skiing, Asa Miller

Naomi C. Amerson