The Long Drought For Philippine Olympic Gold Medal is Over!

by Elpidio Estioko

The just-concluded Tokyo Olympics gave the Philippines its first Olympic gold after 97 years!

Hidilyn Diaz’s Olympic win against the world record holder and gold weightlifting medalist Liao Qulyun of China gave the Philippines its first-ever gold medal since the country joined the Olympics in 1924.

To add to the Philippines’ roster of medals, the boxing team has brought three more medals: two silvers from female boxer Nesthy Petecio and male boxer Carlo Paalam, and a bronze medal from Eumir Marcial.

Please join me in applauding Diaz for ending the gold medal drought and setting up a new horizon for Philippine sports!

“I was surprised that I did! I’ve never lifted 127kg before, ever. But somehow, I did it tonight. God must be guiding me,” she told Yahoo News Singapore later.

Filipinos around the world are proud of you! Along with boxers Petecio, Paalam and Marcial, the whole Team Pilipinas is truly remarkable. You see, there is a bright future for Philippine sports, after all!

A total of 19 athletes across 12 sports make up Team Pilipinas in Tokyo 2020. The team is composed of boxers Eumir Marcial, Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio, and Irish Magno; weightlifters Elreen Ando and Hidilyn Diaz; pole vaulter EJ Obiena; rower Cris Nievarez; gymnast Carlos Yulo; taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa; skateboarder Margielyn Didal; rifle shooter Jayson Valdez; sprinter Kristina Knott; judoka Kiyomi Watanabe; golfers Juvic Pagunsan, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Yuka Saso; and swimmers Remedy Rule and Luke Gebbie.

The rest with their excellent credentials tried their very best and almost triumphed. So far, this is the best Philippine delegation since it started competing in the Olympics. All of them are winners! Kudos to all of them!

Diaz is the only athlete in the Philippine delegation with multiple Olympic appearances: 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, 2016 Rio, and 2021 Tokyo. But there are also three world champions in the delegation: Petecio and gymnast Carlos Yulo who both won in 2019, and golfer Yuka Saso who won the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open.

So far, the Philippines have won a total of 11 Olympic medals as of 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso took home the country’s first medal by placing third place at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics’ 200-meter breaststroke event.

The Philippines took home three bronze medals in 1932 and then Yldefonso won another bronze medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

After independence from the United States, the country did not win another medal until the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics, where boxer Anthony Villanueva won the silver medal. This was the first silver for the Philippines. His father, José, was one of the bronze medalists in 1932.

Likewise, the two Villanuevas hold the distinction of being the only father and son Olympic medalists in Philippine sports history.

Later, boxing brought all of the remaining medals of the country – Leopoldo Serrantes winning bronze at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics; Roel Velasco’s bronze in 1992 Barcelona and his brother Mansueto’s silver at the 1996 Altanta Olympics.

There was another medal drought but was broken after 20 years (equivalent to five Summer Olympics) in the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro when Diaz won silver at women’s 53 kg weightlifting. Diaz would later win the country’s first gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

She cried after winning the women’s 55kg weightlifting gold medal. Tears of joy, so to speak!

The Zamboanga native, who had won a silver at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, also becomes only the second Filipino athlete to win multiple Games medals since Yldefonso won two swimming bronzes in 1928 and 1932.

“I knew I could win, but I have never felt as emotional as this. Holding this gold medal here, it’s like, ‘wow this is unbelievable. I want to thank God for guiding me and my team. I’m very thankful that I was able to bring home the gold for the Philippines,” Diaz said.

The Olympic medalists received rewards from the MVP Sports Foundation through tycoon Manny Pangilinan: Diaz – P10 million; Petecio and Paalam – P5 million each; and Marcial received P2 million, i.e. over and above the benefits they received and will be receiving from the government and the private sector.

MVP also announced that they have awarded the athletes’ coaches a total of P11 million. All the remaining athletes (non-medalists) will be receiving P500,000 each, according to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino in partnership with Pangilinan’s MVP Sports Foundation.

With the record just set, the Philippine government and the private sector need to take good care of our athletes, provide adequate training, extend more benefits and incentives for them to be able to duplicate, if not surpass, its superb Tokyo performance!

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.

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