NOW THAT the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics are officially over and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz — bless her heart — captured the country’s first Olympic gold medal in 97 years, it’s time to talk about the 10 things that we know about the Filipinos and the world’s biggest and most prestigious sporting event.
Most of the information can also be found in various websites on the internet, while others were shared by our long time friend-historian Red Dumuk.
1.The Philippines participated in the Olympics for the first time in Paris in 1924, with sprinter David Nepomuceno competing in both the 100-m and 200-meter dash. Nepomuceno, however, failed to advance.
The Philippines also holds the distinction as the first country from Southeast Asia to compete and, later in 1928, win a medal
2.With the 1-2-1 gold-silver-bronze medal harvest in Tokyo, the Filipinos have now won a total of 14 medals: one gold, five silvers and eight bronzes.
Only four sports, however, managed to deliver a medal with four coming from boxing and two each from weightlifting, athletics and swimming.
3.Swimmer Teófilo Yldefonso of Ilocos Norte was the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal — a bronze in the men’s 200-m breaststroke in 1928 Amsterdam.
Nicknamed the “Ilocano Shark”, Yldefonso added another bronze medal in the 1932 Los Angeles to become the first Filipino multiple winner.
More than eight decades later, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz of Zamboanga surpassed Yldefonso’s feat when she bagged the silver in 2016 Rio de Janeiro and the gold in 2021 Tokyo.
To this date, only Yldefonso and Diaz have won multiple medals.
4. The Philippines has competed in every edition of the Olympics since its debut in 1924 Paris except in 1980 Moscow when the country participated in the American-led boycott.
A total of 514 athletes have represented the country from 1924 to 2021. The biggest delegation was in the 1972 Munich, with a total of 53 athletes. including the star-studded basketball team. It was also the last time that the country participated in team sports.
Except for only one athlete (Yldefonso) in 1924, four athletes (Yldefonso, Simeon Toribio, Anselmo Gonzaga and Tuburan Tamse) in 1928 Amsterdam and eight athletes in 1932 Los Angeles, the two leanest Philippine delegations were 11 athletes in the 2012 London and 12 athletes in 1995 Atlanta.
5. Before the amazing four-medal haul in Tokyo, the Philippines’ best performance came in 1932 Los Angeles with three bronzes from Yldefonso (swimming), Simeon Toribio (athletics/high jump) and Jose Villanueva (boxing/bantamweight.).
The Filipinos went home without a single medal in 13 of 22 Olympics, including a 12-year drought from 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 Beijing.
6.Tokyo proved to be a lucky place for the Philippines. When the Japanese capital hosted the Olympics for the first time in 1964, the Philippines bagged a silver medal thru Anthony Villanueva in men’s featherweight in boxing.
7. Swimmer Tuburan Tamse was the first Muslim Filipino who competed in the Olympics.
A native of Siasi, Sulu Province, Tamse represented the country in the 400-m and 1,500-m freestyle at the age of 17.
Tamse, who.also competed in several Asian Games, later took his master’s degree at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and became a chief in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Zamboanga City. He died in 1985 at the age of 7.
8. On record, swimmer Gertrudes “Tuding” Lozada was the youngest-ever Filipino to represent the country in the Olympics.
Nicknamed the “Baby of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics”, Lozada was only 13 years and 280 days old when she competed in the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle.
(Akiko Thomson was almost 14 when she competed in her first Olympics in Seoul).
Newspaper reports said that Lozada was also one of the most photographed participants in Melbourne, with even athletes from other countries seeking out the Filipina swimming prodigy to make her acquaintance.
Sixty-five years later, Lozada was enshrined to the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame 2021 by a distinguished panel, headed by PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez and POC president Bambol Tolentino.
9.The Philippines has also won a gold medal in the demonstration sports of bowling courtesy of Arianne Cerdena in 1988 Seoul Olympics and taekwondo thru Stephen Fernandez and Bea Lucero in 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Although only demonstration sports, Cerdeña and Fernandez and Lucero have proven the Filipinos really have what it takes to win in the world stage — bowling and taekwondo, to be exact.
To this day, Cerdeña’s Seoul Olympics gold medal is remembered fondly not only by bowling fans but sports lovers all over the world.
10. PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez was at the helm of the government sports agency in three of the last four Olympics: 2008 Beijing, 2016 Rio de Janeiro and 2021 Tokyo.
Third time was indeed a charm for Ramirez as the country finall ended its long 96-year gold medal drought in 2021 Tokyo.
What about you? What Olympics moments do you remember the most from 1924 to 2021?
What do you think about 2024 Paris?
NOTES — Belated happy birthday to my sister, Mary Grace Andaya-Ypil, who celebrated last Aug. 5.
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