Tokyo—The Philippines quenched a 97-year-old thirst for Olympic gold in the Summer Games in Tokyo, then added two silver medals and a bronze for good measure, making it the highest ranking country in Southeast Asia.
The challenge now is how to keep this new era of sporting excellence in the region, where the Philippines affirmed its dominance once again two years after ruling the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which it hosted.
Already thumping its chest with its best showing in the 97-year history of participation in the Olympiad following the country’s first ever gold from superwoman weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, the Philippines continued an onslaught never seen before as it added two silver medals from boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, plus a bronze from their teammate Eumir Marcial.
The overall show was good for 50th place overall, a far cry from the 0-0-0 tallies that had marked five Olympiads from 2000 in Sydney to 2012 in London.
The medal haul also showed that the regional dominance of the Philippines, which sent 19 of its best athletes in these pandemic games, was no fluke.
In contrast, Indonesia which had a 28-strong team in Tokyo, got one gold from the women's badminton doubles tandem of Greysia Polli and Apriyani Rahayu, one silver from weightlifter Eko Irawan, and three bronzes from men's badminton star Anthony Ginting and weightlifters Erwin Abdullah and Windy Aisah – second in the Southeast Asian region and 55th in the world.
Traditional ASEAN powerhouse Thailand placed third in the region and 59th overall with a gold and a bronze while Malaysia was 74th overall with only a bronze to show.
Vietnam, which won its first Olympic gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, failed to win a single medal, as did Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei and Timor Leste.
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Sunday thanked the Philippine team for their overall performance to bring honor to the country.
“Our warmest congratulations and deepest gratitude to the entire Philippine delegation on reaching multiple milestones in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, including the country’s first gold medal after 97 years of Olympic competition,” he said in a statement.
“With one gold from Hidilyn Diaz, two silver medals from Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, and one bronze from Eumir Marcial, this edition’s Philippine team is undoubtedly the most successful delegation since the country started competing in the Olympics in 1924,” he said.
Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday commended the 19 Filipino athletes for their “superb” performance, making the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics the country’s best Olympic bid ever with a record-breaking four medals.
“Thank you for bringing pride, glory and inspiration to the Filipino people. Thank you for the mission accomplished,” he said. “Your achievements inspired many Filipinos to soar to greater heights and achieve great success in life,” he said.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said the formula of this new-found success lies in the hard work and teamwork of everyone involved.
“Our hearts are filled with gratitude to the Philippine government through the PSC, the support of private personalities and companies headed by MVPSF and Mr. Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation, and everyone else who pledge incentives for our Filipino athletes. Similarly, our heartfelt thanks to the members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, all those who sought grace, strength, courage and hope for our Olympians,” said Tolentino, whose sentiment was echoed by Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez.
“Foremost, we thank our partners in the Executive Office, the Senate, the Congress, PAGCOR, and other government agencies, who like us believed that sports have a place in nation building and our athletes are worth supporting,” said Ramirez.
The other Tokyo Olympians in Elreen Ando (weightlifting), Kurt Barbosa (taekwondo), Margielyn Didal (skateboarding), Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule (swimming), Kristina Knott and Ernest John Obiena (athletics), Irish Magno (boxing), Chris Nievarez (rowing), Bianca Pagdanganan, Juvic Pagunsan and Yuka Saso (golf), Jayson Valdez (shooting), Kiyomi Watanabe (judo) and Carlos Yulo (gymnastics) may have fallen short of their goals here, but many of them came tantalizingly close to winning medals.
“We will keep supporting our medal winners and those who did not [win], these athletes are still very young, we know what they are capable of. They will be more ready in the coming Olympics,” said Tolentino.
Yulo, for instance, came through with the highest execution and second best score in the men’s vault gymnastics finals, but fell short in the totals, missing the bronze medal by a hairline.
His 14.866 score in his second vault attempt called Dragulescu, was even better than the 14.833 of eventual gold medalist Shin Jeahwan (total 14.783) of Korea, but the Filipino gymnast’s 14.566 in the first vault dragged his total score to 14.716 for fourth place.
On the other hand, pole vaulter Obiena, whose personal best was 5.87 meters, was the same height cleared by eventual bronze medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil in the games.
“We thank those who worked to qualify, those who fought with golden determination as much as those who in the end brought us pride and honor with their victories. We know the sacrifices and hardship you all had to endure in training and preparation. We know the price you had to pay to be on that road towards your dream, our dream. We are sure that your achievements have caught the attention, fired up the imagination and inspired many of our youth to pursue sports. On behalf of a grateful nation, which has so proudly carried you on its shoulder to rejoice in your victory, maraming salamat,” said Ramirez. With Rio N. Araja