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UB’s Villegas among 8 Filipino athletes getting IOC grant

IOC GRANTEE. University of Baguio’s Aira Villegas will receive a monthly stipend from the International Olympics Committee through the Philippine Olympic Committee to help her improve her boxing skills. From left: former mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Villegaa, UB athletic director Alan Elegado and former national boxing coach Glicerio Catholica, Jr. PMLobien

Eight Filipino athletes led by pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, including one from the University of Baguio will receive the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship by the International Olympics Committee.

Obiena, who recently established an Asian record by clearing 5.93 meters in the 17th Golden Roof Challenge in Austria last Saturday to erase 23 year record of Igor Poptapovich, is one of the two Tokyo Olympics veterans to receive the IOC scholarship intended the development of athletes “in particular those with the greatest needs of it.”

Weightlifter Elreen Ando, who saw action in the last Summer Olympics, is also listed among the eight scholars which will be coursed through the Philippine Olympics Committee.

Aira Villegas is one of the two boxer-grantees along with Rogen Ladon.

Villegas, who is now back in Baguio to enroll at the University of Baguio, is a 2019 Southeast Asian Games bronze medalist, however, her weight is not included in the last Olympics.

“I have been here for nine years and ate Nesthy, ate Irish (Magno) and ate Josie (Gabuco) were all ahead of me,” said the 25 year old Aira Villegas, who in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games won a bronze medal.

The bantamweight from Tacloban City, Leyte may not be homegrown, “but I call Baguio my home now. I was only 16 when I got here and they (Petecio, Magno and Gabuco) were already here,” she said in the vernacular.

She said that she arrived in December 2012, before typhoon Yolanda inundated much of her home city. “I vote here and I have been residing here,” added Villegas who has moved out of the Philippine boxing team quarters at the Baguio Teachers Camp.

She is also one of the five medalists from UB in the last SEAG along with Tokyo Olympics silver medalists Petecio and Carlo Paalam, both gold, Olympian Magno (silver) and former world champion Gabuco, also gold.

Like Villegas, Gabuco’s weight category was not included in the Olympics.

Other recipients are Samantha Catantan in fencing, Jericho Francisco in skateboarding, Allen Mitch Arcilla in wrestling and Patrick Coo in BMX Cycling.

The IOC will be giving US$7,500 every month to the POC, which in turn give it equally among the eight recepients who will each receive US$937.50 (about PhP47,000) per month.

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