A historic Olympics for our country | Inquirer Opinion
Second Opinion

A historic Olympics for our country

/ 05:06 AM August 13, 2021

Over the past few weeks, at a most difficult time for our country, our Olympic athletes have lifted our hopes, fighting their way to bring glory, pride, and inspiration to a pandemic-weary nation. Beyond the unprecedented medal count—one bronze, two silvers, and our first-ever gold—our compatriots’ remarkable journeys have shone a light on our sporting prospects and our nation itself: our struggles, our successes, and the possibilities that may lie ahead.

There’s the tale of Hidilyn Diaz, who in that historic moment lifted not just an astounding 127 kg, but a weary people, whose misery was punctuated just hours before by a President who only knew how to spew hate in what was his thankfully final State of the Nation Address. (That same President’s administration, incidentally, had the nerve to accuse Hidilyn of being part of a so-called ouster plot, only to now embrace her upon her victory.)

Hidilyn’s victory was made all the more remarkable considering how the pandemic weighed on her, stranding her in Malaysia and forcing her to train with water bottles and other makeshift equipment. Surely, Hidilyn speaks for many Filipinos when she said “Atin ang West Philippine Sea” right after her victory, and I see her being a positive influence in our country in the years to come.

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The story of Carlo Paalam is equally compelling, and not just because of his performances in the ring. “I came from scavengers, selling garbage scraps,” he said after receiving his silver medal that, like all Olympic medals, had been made from 78,985 tons of recycled electronic devices. “[This medal] symbolizes my life because this came from broken gadgets. [This medal] came from garbage.

It came from garbage… and it has a connection to my life.” Carlo’s story not only embodies, but also dignifies, the labor of finding use for, and even wealth in, our garbage.

Meanwhile, Nesthy Petecio’s achievement is not just in her victory but in what she stands for. Like Hidilyn, she breaks stereotypes by representing women in boxing; she has also actively signified her representation on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

For his part, Eumir Marcial and his boxing journey reminded us that Filipino boxing is bigger than Manny Pacquiao and that we can expect more from our boxers in the years to come.

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Beyond our medalists, our other Olympians are no less inspiring, from the grace of Carlos Yulo to the brilliance of Yuka Saso, who even before Tokyo had made history in San Francisco as the first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open, and shares the distinction of being the youngest golfer to win the tournament.

And who can forget our skateboarder, Margielyn Didal, whose performances and positive vibes won fans around the world? The plaudits she and our other athletes received beyond our shores should remind us that regardless of the flag each athlete carries, we should be capable of admiring and supporting them. Personally, I feel that aside from celebrating the fact that we emerged as the best performing nation in Asean, as some news stories have done, we should also learn to cheer our neighbors on.

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Of course, the Olympics is tied to nationhood, and has been inescapably so since the Games’ modern inception. While much has been written about the consequences, good and bad, of “sports nationalism,” the Tokyo Olympics has reminded us that it can nonetheless have positive benefits for the country, not least of which is the provision of role models beyond the usual showbiz and

political figures; representation for our country and our diversity; and of course, inspiration. Unlike the defeatism of President Duterte, our athletes have shown that we can actually win on the global stage.

All of the above should leave no excuse in terms of government investment in sports for Paris 2024 and beyond. While it is easy to support people who have already won, what we really need to do is to support those who need such assistance in order to win.

I also hope that the Games have also underscored the importance of physical activity—not just for elite athletes but for everyone. Alas, I fear that we risk losing an entire generation of future Olympians if we needlessly confine our children in their homes and deprive them of physical activity.

Meanwhile, I join our people in expressing gratitude for our Olympians for the fortnight of triumph amid a season of hardship. You all came to Tokyo in search of bronze, silver, and gold. But in the process, you have also reminded us of the talent, wealth, and greatness that lie within our nation.

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TAGS: Hidilyn Diaz, Olympics, president’s speech, sports

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