Rower Nievarez through to quarterfinals

Filipino rower Cris Nievarez booked a spot in the quarterfinals of the men’s single sculls rowing competition at the Tokyo Olympics after finishing third in heat no. 5 of the qualification phase on Friday. — Cris Nievarez Facebook page

Cris Nievarez kicked off the Philippine campaign in the Summer Olympic Games with a strong third-place performance Friday, just enough to advance to the quarterfinals of the Men’s Single Sculls Rowing Competition.

The plan was to finish in the top 3 of Heat no. 5 and Nievarez did just that when he submitted an impressive time of 7:22.97 in the 2000-meter courses to clinch a berth in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

“It feels great. It’s the first race and first action. I’m very happy. This is for the Philippines,” said Nievarez, who had two world-class rowers in front of him – Croatia’s Damir Martin (7:09.17), the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist, and Russian Alexander Vyazovkin (7:14.95), the world indoor champion.

The top three in all of the six heats in the men’s singles scull advanced to the quarterfinals.

Those who missed the top three will battle it out in Saturday’s repechage where the top two performers move on to the quarterfinals.

A native of Sariaya in Quezon, Nievarez is the only Southeast Asian qualifier in men’s singles sculls and one of only two Asians left after the preliminaries — the other one being Ryuta Arakawa, who placed second in the final heat.