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RP BLU GILRS BEGIN BID FOR OLYMPIC BERTH

The RP Blu Girls open their bid for a spot in the 2008 Summer Olympics when they play Singapore on the first day of the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifier. To be held at the Tainan Municipal Softball Stadium in Tainan City, Taiwan, the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifier series will run from Feb. 1 to 7.

With their gold medal finish in the recent 23rd Southeast Asian Games, the Blu Girls are confident their game against SEAG fourth placer Singapore will be an easy take.

"Maganda na ang aming simula ay itong laban against Singapore dahil nakalaban na namin sila at kumpiyansa kaming matatalo uli namin sila katulad ng ginawa namin sa SEA Games," RP Blu Girls head coach Aleli Nabong said.

The first day of the tournament will also see the Philippines compete against South Korea. Though confident that they can beat the South Korean team, the RP Blu Girls are prepared to give their all when they meet in the afternoon.

"Nakapaglaro kasi sila sa Doha Asian Games last December so malamang nasa competitive level pa sila. Pero kumpiyansa kami na itong laro against Singapore and South Korea will serve as our warm up games para sa mas matitinding kalaban," coach Nabong added.

The strong contenders according to coach Nabong are the teams from North Korea, New Zealand and host country, Chinese Taipei. Chinese Taipei managed to land second at the recent Doha Asian games while North Korea secured the fourth spot. The Kiwis meanwhile, are out to play their best to qualify for another berth in the Olympics, which they were able to join in 2000 but missed out in 2004.

The six teams will compete for the lone seat allotted for the region at the Olympics. The winning team will join Australia, Canada, Japan, the USA and China, by virtue of being the host country of the 2008 Olympics, in the fight for an Olympic gold.

Two more qualifying events, the Africa/Europe in June and the Americas in August will determine which teams will compete in what is probably the last batch of softball participants for the Olympics.

"Softball will not be played at the 2012 Olympics in London. There is also no guarantee, as well that it will return in 2016. So the stakes are really high for the 2008 Olympics," said assistant coach Kiko Diaz.

As to the chances of winning the tournament, Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines (ASAPHIL) President, Jean Henri Lhuillier, expressed full confidence.

"This team is composed of the core team that gave us the gold in the last SEA games. A rigid training program and a complementary nutritional program has been in place for our Blu Girls since last year to prepare them for this," Lhuillier said.

"It will be an honor if our Blu Girls make it to the Beijing Olympics. The task at hand maybe tough but I think the girls are prepared. Their hearts are into winning and with our prayers and support, everything is possible," Lhuillier added.

The Blu Girls are composed of Heidilyn Arca, Corazon Sobere, Babette Ramos, Joy Lasquite, Dione Macasu, Belen Ramirez Asok, Heide Bonggas, Gina Salvador, Esmeralda Tayag, Elaine Caladiao Bacarisas, Nimfa Baral, Janet Vallite, Nelia Lara and rookies Loulou Maganda, Ayesa Arceo, Karen Aribal and Joy Daquiado. The coaching staff is headed by coach Aleli Nabong, with assistant coaches Francis Diaz and Ronelon Pagkaliwagan.


GAME SCHEDULE PHILIPPINES:

February 1 (Thursday)
1 09:00AM SINGAPORE VS PHILIPPINES
5 17:00PM PHILIPPINES VS SOUTH KOREA

February 2 (Friday)
7 09:00AM DPR KOREA VS PHILIPPINES
11 17:00PM PHILIPPINES VS NEW ZEALAND

February 3 (Saturday)
14 12:00AM PHILIPPINES VS CHINESE TAIPEI
17 15:00PM PHILIPPINES VS SINGAPORE

February 4 (Sunday)
21 13:00PM NEW ZEALAND VS PHILIPPINES
24 19:00PM PHILIPPINES VS DPR KOREA

February 5 (Monday)
26 11:00AM CHINESE TAIPEI VS PHILIPPINES
29 17:00PM SOUTH KOREA VS PHILIPPINES






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