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London on my mind

/ 01:43 AM March 05, 2012

Our first participation in the Olympic Games was in 1924 in Paris, France. The only Filipino entry was David Nepomuceno, a sprinter who finished fourth in the 100- and 200-meter trials and thus was eliminated.

It was during the 1928 Games held in Amsterdam, Holland, that the Philippines won its first Olympic medal—a bronze—by swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso of Ilocos Norte. Japan and Germany garnered the first and second places, respectively.

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Four years later, in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, three Filipinos each won a bronze medal. It would represent the highest harvest of medals won by the country in a single Olympiad. Teofilo Yldefonso would repeat his third place finish in Amsterdam while Simeon Toribio, a high jumper from Bohol won the bronze medal in his event. He would later become a congressman representing his home province. The country’s third medalist was bantamweight boxer Jose “Cely” Villanueva, father of Anthony Villanueva, our silver medalist also in boxing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. With the fourth place finish of shooter Martin Gison and the fifth place of swimmer Jikirum Adjaluddin, the Philippines had its best showing in any Olympiad.

In the 1936 Berlin Games, Miguel White from Albay won a bronze medal in the 400-meter low hurdles with a time of 52.8 seconds. Also in Berlin, Primitivo “Tibing” Martinez, a member of the basketball team which placed fifth in the Games, was voted by German sports writers as the “Best Basketball Player of the World.”

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Since 1924 when we first joined the Games, one achievement has continued to elude us in our quest for excellence and honor in world sports competitions.

We have never won a gold medal in the Games.

Our closest brush came, as mentioned earlier, with Anthony Villanueva’s silver in the Tokyo Olympics. In the 1988 Seoul Games, one of our athletes, Arianne Cerdena, won top honors in women’s bowling. Unfortunately bowling was just considered an exhibition sport and in fact was scrapped in Barcelona.

Certain countries, though not figuring prominently in Olympic fame, have produced the following gold medalists:

Venuste Niyongabo from Burundi won a gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics for the 5000-meter men’s event. Burundi is an East African nation of 6 million people, majority of whom are Roman Catholics.

Lee Lai Shan of Hong Kong, with a population of 7 million, won a gold medal in windsurfing. She is one of eight sisters.

Featherweight boxer Somluck Kamsing of Thailand also won a gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics defeating a Bulgarian. For his victory, the Thai boxer received some $2 million in contributions from all over Thailand. The medal was won while the nation was still in the midst of a year-long celebration of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 50th year on the throne.

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For close to 90 years—almost a century—the Philippine national flag has never been raised and the national anthem has never been played in an Olympic setting symbolizing global supremacy in a particular sporting event. To see our national standard being hoisted to the strains of “Lupang Hinirang,” our national anthem, with people from all over the world rising up for the occasion, is a prize so great and so worthy of our best efforts.

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President Marcos had “Gintong Alay”; President Ramos had his “Partnership Program for Sports for All” (PPSA). We did not realize any Olympic gold from these endeavors.

Today we have no bright prospects for the coming London Games except perhaps in boxing, with our young boxers inspired by the dream of becoming another Manny Pacquiao. If we go by media reports that crop up every now and then, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose Cojuangco has difficulty getting past the Palace guards to see his nephew, the President. Budgetary allocations for sports are caught in the political crossfire of opposing camps. Forget about all those fancy-titled sports development programs. They are strictly for press releases in order to impress the general public.

Check out the last Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) held in Palembang, Indonesia. We came out sixth, ahead of Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, East Timor, and Brunei. Singapore, with a population of 4 million, was ahead of us in fifth place. What was noted by media was the absence of high-ranking Philippine sports officials during the Games. Obviously they had other things on their minds and Palembang was not one of them. But you can be sure that in London, we will end up with more officials than athletes.

The workhorse in Philippine sports officialdom is Steve Hontiveros, secretary-general of the POC. Through the years, he has managed to maintain his sanity continuing to do the difficult administrative work that keeps things going even when hampered by the web of rivalries and intrigues that plague Philippine sports.

The XXX Olympiad takes place in London in August. One way of getting a free trip to London, one of the great cities of the world, is to piggyback on a sports-related activity and pretend that you are an athlete or even better, a sports official.

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The AIM Alumni Achievement Award (Triple A) is the highest recognition given by the Asian Institute of Management to its outstanding alumni. Since 1970, the alumni association of AIM has honored a total of 121 alumni out of over 39,000 graduates for achievements in the exercise of professional management in their respective areas.

Last month the latest batch of Triple A awardees were presented in ceremonies at the AIM: Shih-Choib Fu, MBM 1989 from Taiwan; Milon Bikash Paul, MM 1988, Bangladesh; Ravi Prasad, MBM 1988, India; Jose Clemente Salceda, MBM 1990, Philippines; and Inquirer president Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, MDM 1994, Philippines.

Sandy was cited for her “active commitment to social development, a sense of mission, an innovativeness which introduced many firsts in the industry.”

Also in connection with AIM alumni association homecoming activities, my PMA classmate Brig. Gen. Romeo S. David (Ret.), MBM 1972, scored his first hole-in-one—after 49 years of playing golf—at the Alabang Country Club. His flightmates, all AIM alumni, were former congressman Renato Diaz, Erlin Panergo, and Mert Besa. His feat was made at the 145-yard Hole No. 6 using a Ping Iron No. 5 and a Titleist ball.

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