Filipino athletes made history in Tokyo Olympics

By Carlo Canares

QUEZON CITY —  Two Filipino female athletes made history after winning Olympic medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Hidilyn Diaz won the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal in the weightlifting category since the country first participated in the Olympics in 1927.

Nesthy Petecio is the first Filipino female boxer to win an Olympic medal, giving the country its second Olympic medal. She won silver in the featherweight division in a tough clash with Japan’s Sena Irie, a former foe, who won the gold medal. Petecio had defeated Irie in the 2019 World Championship, but Irie won the Tokyo qualifiers against Petecio last March.

Petecio’s winning also ended the country’s boxing medal drought since Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco clinched the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

With only a few more days before the closing of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Philippines is pinning its hopes on remaining world-ranked Filipino athletes to add to the country’s Olympic medal haul.

Carlo Paalam completes the Philippine boxing medal pantheon with a sure silver medal after defeating Japan’s Ryomei Tanaka via a unanimous decision, today August 5.  He will advance to the men’s flyweight final round for a shot at an Olympic boxing gold when he faces Great Britain’s Galal Yafai on August 7.

Paalam, the youngest Filipino boxer on the Olympic team at 23 years old,  will bring home the third Olympic medal from boxing and a historic fourth overall for the Philippines, more than the country’s three-medal count in the 1932 Los Angeles Games

Former junior world boxing champion Eumir Marcial settled for the middleweight bronze medal after losing to another junior world champion Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak in a tough clash on August 5.

In an interview with PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar during the #Laging Handa Public Briefing, Philippine Sports Commission official Ramon Fernandez disclosed that sending Filipino athletes abroad to compete in the past years is the secret formula to the high-level performance of Filipino athletes.

“We sent them abroad in 2017, 2018, 2019 to compete in high-level tournaments. As the saying goes, athletes are only as good as their competition. They improved,” Fernandez, who himself a former athlete, said.

The PSC will concentrate on sports that the country can win, such as boxing and weightlifting under the Individual Weight category.

The “trial model system” is another strategy to produce winning athletes. Fernandez said the PSC created a team of top-level coaches, masseurs, sports psychologists, and sports nutritionists to support an athlete.

“We cannot leave the winning to luck,” Fernandez said.

The triumph of the Filipino athletes had brought jubilation and pride to a nation besieged by a pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a separate briefing, has said the Palace is one with the Filipino people in rejoicing the triumphant performances of the Filipino athlete.

The Philippines has sent 19 athletes – nine men and ten women – to compete in eleven different sports in the Tokyo Olympics. Philippine Information Agency

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