I guess this is the best way for me to describe how I feel towards the Tokyo Olympics as far as our competing athletes are concerned—optimistic but realistic.
Looking at the list of Filipino athletes, who realized their dreams of being an Olympian, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, golfer Yuka Saso, boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno and Nesthy Petecio, gymnast Carlos Yulo and polevaulter EJ Obiena, probably have a better chance than the rest to bring home a medal.
If any of them wins an Olympic gold, I can only imagine the euphoria and jubilation of the entire country, maybe see a renaissance in Philippine sports.
We came close thrice, twice in boxing and once in weightlifting. Anthony Villanueva lost in a controversial final bout against Russian Stanislav Stepashkin in the men’s featherweight in the 1964 Tokyo Olympiad. Then, Onyok Velasco duplicated the feat in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, losing to Daniel Petrov in the light flyweight division.
The latest silver medal came at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympiad, where Diaz settled for a silver medal in the women’s 53-kg division.
Other Filipino athletes, who gave us bronze medals were swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso, tracksters Simeon Toribio and Miguel White, and boxer Jose Villanueva, all of which happened before World War II that regular sports fans barely remember.
After the war, those who went home with a bronze were boxers Leopoldo Serrantes at the 1988 Seoul Olympiad and Roel Velasco in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. And that was it.
This time, the prospective medalists are definitely better prepared, with both the private and government sectors pitching in to provide what is normally the missing link -- international training and exposure of the athletes, with most of them practically spending a lot of time in foreign countries with their respective foreign coaches.
In terms of preparation then, I would say that this is the best prepared Philippine Olympic team, at least for some of the athletes.
The other Filipino hopefuls are Carlo Paalam in boxing, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, golfer Juvic Pagunsan, rower Cris Nievarez, weightlifter Elreen Ando, shooter Jayson Valdez, judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, trackster Kristina Knott, golfer Bianca Pagdanganan, and a pair of swimmers Fil-American Remedy Rule and Fil-Australian Luke Gebbie.
A lot of hopes, with a dash of prayers, I can only wish them all the best of luck.
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A little update on our “Ayuda Sa Atleta” campaign. Distribution of gift packs is presently going on to the first recipients, the para athletes and their coaches. Among the first groups to pick up are athletics, chess, para sailing, badminton and yesterday, from my house in Taguig, dance sport and wheelchair basketball.
Main distribution point is Annette Nelmida’s place in Muntinlupa and other para NSAs are requested to get in touch with her at tel. no. 09176263255, or me at tel. no. 09209241981, to coordinate pick ups.
Next will be the national athletes, and how I wish we could give to all. Donations are accepted until the end of July. Advance thanks to all who helped and will help.
God bless you all.