CEBU CITY, Philippines – At last the Philippines captured the elusive Olympic gold medal, ending nearly a century of quest since the country took part of the quadrennial games in 1924 in Paris.
The gold medal came from weightlifting, delivered by no less than Hidilyn Diaz, who won the silver medal in Rio in 2016. Before Brazil, weightlifting was never seen as a potential source of the Olympic gold medal, as boxing has been perceived to be the most potential first Olympic gold medal producer. But Diaz proved us all wrong by making history, five years after she ended the medal dry spell in 2016.
Before Diaz’s weightlifting silver in Rio, boxing had already produced five Olympic medals – 2 silvers, courtesy of Anthony Villanueva in 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco in 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and three bronze medals (Jose Villanueva 1932 LA, Leopoldo Serrantes 1988 Seoul and Roel Velasco 1992 Barcelona).
With the performance of our boxers – it was safe to say that the first Olympic gold will come from the square ring. However, that impression changed when Diaz went home with the silver medal five years ago.
For the past 22 editions of the Olympics, the Philippines participated except in the 1980 Moscow Olympics where the Philippines was among the 66 countries that boycott the event. The Philippines’ biggest medal haul was three (bronze) medals from the 1932 Olympics.
As of Sunday, 01 August, the Philippines is sure to equal that number of medals following Eumir Marcial’s quarterfinal win that assured him of a bronze medal while fellow boxer Nesthy Pethetecio has insured herself a silver after her conquest over Italian Irma Testa in the semifinal round. However, glitters are more precious as this edition’s haul ended the quest for the country’s first gold medal.
And to note, there are still other athletes who are eager to take a share of the cash windfall that Diaz is about to receive. Boxer Carlo Paalam, Gymnast Carlos Yulo, Pole vault EJ Obiena, sprinter Kristina Knott and golfers Juvic Pagunsan, Bianca Pagdanganan and Yuka Saso are hopefuls to add medals to the Philippine tally.
Cebuana weightlifter Elreen Anodo showed a lot of promise in her first Olympic appearance. The 22-year old lifter from Carreta finished 7th in her weight class 64kgs and skateboarder Margielyn Didal also wound up 7th place in the Women’s Street competition.
Speaking of cash windfall, Hidilyn Diaz is guaranteed to receive P43.5 Million in cash plus free fuel for life from Phoenix Petroleum, P3M worth of house and lot in Zamboanga City, a P14M condominium unit in Eastwood, QC, a P4M house and lot to be provided by PHirst Park Homes, a house & lot in Tagaytay, a lifetime free flights from Air Asia, and 80,000 free flights per year for life offered by Philippine Airlines, and a lot more come to come.
The cash incentive is broken down as follows; P10M from the government through RA 10699 or the National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act, P10M from San Miguel Corporation CEO Ramon Ang, P10M from the MVP Sports Foundation, P5M pledge from Siklab Atleta Sports Foundation, P3M pledge from Pres. Duterte, P3M pledge from House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero and P2.5M from Zamboanga City government.
POC president Bambol Tolentino who pledged the house and lot in Tagaytay assured Hidilyn that he will personally collect the pledges for her. Good for Hidilyn, because when Onyok Velasco went home with the silver medal in Atlanta 25 years ago, he received a lot of pledges. However, only received a handful.
Although the promised house and lot were fulfilled, the title is yet to the handed to him, and he feared that they might be evicted anytime if it won’t be given. However, knowing Onyok, who is a known TV and movie comedian, he just took these things in jest.
“Dinaan ko na lang sa joke joke joke ang lahat. Pinangakuan na tayo, gusto pa natin tuparin. Solve na ako doon sa pangako,” Velaso cracked a joke. Onyok was 22 when he won the silver medal. He could have tried for at least one more Olympic cycle if he had not given up boxing after Atlanta.
The bandwagon effect.
Young athletes as well as LGUs are now looking at taking up weightlifting as a sport at this stage. You can’t blame them. With the incentives that the 30-year old Zamboanguena will be receiving, every parent will also dream for their child to achieve the same success.
However, this sport is very dangerous, if not properly guided – athletes may suffer career-ending injuries such as common rotator cuff tear, biceps tendinopathy, meniscus tear, Achilles tendon rupture, shoulder impingement, rotate cuff tendonitis to hernia and worse spine injury.
With the success of Diaz and the unexpected entry of Elreen Ando, many are now planning to put up a weightlifting training center in their respective jurisdiction.
However, if putting such a training center is just a spur of the moment better ditch that plan as it won’t work absolutely.