Only 19 days remain before our 19 Pinoy Olympians compete in Japan’s capital.
For the Philippines, this is the 22nd time that we’re joining the Summer Games. Our debut at the Olympics began in 1924 when David Nepomuceno competed in the 100m and 200m events in Paris.
Four years later in Amsterdam, we sent four Olympians with swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso winning our first medal (bronze) in the 200m breaststroke.
Since 1924, we have participated in every Olympics except thrice: in 1940 and 1944 when the Games were cancelled because of World War II and in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when we joined the US-led boycott.
In our 21 times of joining the Olympics, only nine Filipinos have ever won medals. The latest to triumph was Hidilyn Diaz in 2016 — joining Tokyo for her fourth consecutive Olympics — when the weightlifter won silver in Rio.
Prior to Hidilyn’s runner-up finish, our last medal was recorded in 1996 when arguably the most famous Pinoy Olympian, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco, narrowly lost the light flyweight title in Atlanta.
Worldwide, in the list of countries that have won Olympic medals, it’s no surprise that the U.S. ranks first with 2,523 medals (1,022 gold). Next is Russia (1,556 medals) and Germany (1,346).
Our nine total medals (3 silver and 7 bronze) after nearly a century of joining the Olympics ranks the Philippines among the worst-performing. (By comparison, Singapore and Vietnam own gold medals.) But let us not despair. In all, there are still 50 or so countries that have yet to win a single Olympic medal. And our blank gold medal tally makes us equal with Malaysia (who have won 7 silver and 4 bronze — but zero gold).
Here’s a fun fact: There is only one nation on this planet to have won a gold medal every time they joined: Great Britain.
Here’s another: If Michael Phelps were a country, he’d be ranked 39th (out of 205) in the all-time count. His 28 medals (23 gold) outstrips countries like India, Mexico, Egypt and Argentina.
Speaking of gold, will Tokyo finally be the city where the Philippines wins the sporting world’s highest achievement?
We will have 19 Olympians joining — the highest number since we had 20 at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Our officials, led by Chef de Mission (and football chief) Mariano Araneta, are slated to land at the Narita Airport on July 15. The athletes will follow soon after (all are billeted at the Conrad Hotel), and they’re expected to join the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium (8 p.m. on July 23).
Our 19 Olympians include Cebu’s star skateboarder Margie Didal; weightlifters Diaz and Elreen Ando (from the University of Cebu); swimmers Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule; shooter Jayson Valdez; boxers Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno and Carlo Paalam; sprinter Kristina Knott; golfers Yuka Saso (US Open champ), Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan; pole vaulter EJ Obiena; gymnast Caloy Yulo; rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa; and the Cebu-born judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, whose mom Irene is from Toledo City.