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Time to win the elusive Olympic gold

/ 05:03 AM October 19, 2019

After 95 years, since our debut in the Olympic competitions in 1924, it is likely the Philippines may finally win the elusive Olympic gold medal. The heroics of 19-year-old Carlos Yulo at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart last Oct. 12, where he scored 15.300 after a stunning triple-twist to defeat Artem Dolgopyat of Israel (15.200) and China’s Xiao Ruoteng (14.933), may have assured our chances for the gold in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.

For the sake of national pride, we should really win the gold next year. It is a shame that our Asian neighbors have all won gold medals while we have not. Thailand has won nine golds; Indonesia, seven golds; Vietnam, one gold; and Singapore, one gold. In almost 10 decades of vying in the Summer Olympics, Filipino athletes have won only 10 Olympic medals as of the 2016 Summer Olympics: seven bronzes for boxing, athletics and swimming, and three silvers—two for boxing and one for weightlifting. No Filipino athlete has ever won a gold medal, making the Philippines the Asian country that has won the second most medals without winning the gold (behind Malaysia, which has won only 11 medals).

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Our consolation in the region is that our competitive level has risen. Seven years ago at the 2012 London Olympics, Southeast Asia’s athletes failed to win a single gold medal, a first since the 1988 Seoul Games. But in the latest edition in Rio de Janeiro, Southeast Asian countries responded by combining to haul 18 medals—five golds, 10 silvers and three bronzes. The previous best Asian performance was at the 2004 Athens Games—four golds, two silvers and six bronzes.

The record shows that Malaysia won four silvers and one bronze in 2016, and one silver and one bronze in 2012. Indonesia ran off with one gold and two silvers in 2016 and one silver and one bronze in 2012. Singapore snared one gold in 2016 and two bronzes in 2012, while Vietnam tallied one gold and one silver in 2016. The Philippines won one silver in 2016 and did not win any medal in 2012.

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We started participating in the Olympic Games in the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris, with David Nepomuceno as the sole participant. At the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, we won our first medal when swimmer Teófilo Yldefonso finished third in the 200-meter breaststroke event. The 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was the most fruitful for us, with the Philippines winning three bronze medals. We would win another bronze medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

After 1946, the country did not win another medal until the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics, where boxer Anthony Villanueva was sadly beaten in the gold medal bout. Boxing would later bring all of the remaining medals of the country, with Leopoldo Serantes winning bronze at the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics. Another boxer, Roel Velasco, won a bronze medal four years later in Barcelona, while his brother, Mansueto, was beaten in the gold medal bout in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Another medal drought was broken after 20 years (equivalent to five Summer Olympics) in the 2016 Summer Olympics when Hidilyn Diaz won silver in the women’s 53-kg weightlifting event in Rio de Janeiro.

While the Olympic charter stresses peaceful competition, it is also a time of surging national pride. Patriotism can give athletes a sense of purpose beyond personal achievement. In July to August 2020, more than 10,000 athletes from around the world will compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. While they come in pursuit of personal dreams, they will also represent their respective countries. For spectators and supporters from the more than 200 countries participating, the Olympics are a chance to cheer for their countrymen and women. For the athletes themselves, national pride is a powerful motivator.

Most of us have opposite political affiliations. We may dislike President Duterte but for sure we will be deliriously happy together if, in the Tokyo Summer Olympics next July, Caloy Yulo wins the gold for men’s floor exercises and Nesthy Petecio wins another gold for featherweight championship in female boxing.

Charlie A. Agatep is chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep.

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TAGS: Boxing, Carlos Yulo, Olympic Gold, World Artistic Gymnastics Championships
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