OLD and new faces, familiar and unfamiliar names, coming from different sports disciplines and various parts of the country were all there when the Philippine Olympians Association (POA) held its General Assembly recently at the Alphaland in Makati City.
Their common bond is the fact that they have attained the ultimate dream of any athlete, compete against the best of the world in the Olympic Games and forever be called an Olympian, according to POA Chairman, basketball cager and Melbourne Olympics basketball team captain Rafael Hechanova.
Hechanova, 86 years old but still very much in control of his life kidded that this team, even if it only placed 7th eventually in Australia, was better than the 1954 team that placed third in the World basketball Championship in Brazil.
Mexico Olympiad veterans Orly Bauzon and Elias Tolentino were there too reminiscing about their team, coached by Caloy Loyzaga who surprised everyone when he dropped his YCO players Freddie Webb and Ed Roque from the final line-up.
Among the older athletes who made it there were brother swimmers Jacinto and Pedro, 89 and 82 respectively. Jacinto won two gold medals in the Asian Games and he remembers swimming in very cold waters in London in 1948.
Low hurdles record holder Manolita Cinco-Dopeno from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, a breast cancer survivor, also came with husband Alejo. She described the athletes of yesteryears as “disiplinado kami noon at masunurin sa coach. Walang incentives na pera pero serious kami lahat (We were disciplined then and obedient to our coach. We didn’t receive money but we were all serious).”
Weightlifters Samuel Alegada and Gregorio Colonia, both 52, and who were in the 1988 Seoul Olmpiad and taekwondo jins Monsour del Rosario and Stephen Fernandez, the country’s very first competitors in that sport in the Olympics, also made an appearance.
“Nanghihinayang lang ako, kami ni Stephen. First round pa lang, Korean world champions agad kalaban namin. Si Stephen nakabalik at nanalo ng bronze (I’m disappointed, along with Stephen. We met Korean world champions right in the first round. Stephen came back to win a bronze) four years after in Spain,” said Del Rosario who is still an action movie star.
Other familiar names present were marathoner Roy Vence, cyclist Rolando Guaves, weightlifter Arturo del Rosario, basketball cagers of different eras, Tony Genato, POA president and shooting champion Art Macapagal, three-time Olympian Akiko Thomson-Guevara, now with the Philippine Sports Commission ( PSC ), archer Ramon Aldea, and boxer Roel Velasco, among others.
The POA also presented the Arete awards to Sun Chong Hon and Smart Communications for their invaluable role in developing Philippine sports while new members were also inducted.
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