Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez is optimistic of the country’s chances in the Tokyo Olympics and to be honest, you can’t help but share in his optimism. With 19 qualifiers, this batch will be our biggest since we had 20 in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and there’s reason to hope that this will outperform our Olympians in Sydney.
Let me go back a little bit. After winning a silver medal in Atlanta, courtesy of Mansueto Velasco, Philippine sports officials were optimistic that we’d win our first gold in Sydney, especially after having four entries in boxing. Unfortunately, Sydney would be the first of four Olympiads where the country wouldn’t win a single medal.
That drought ended in 2016, when Hidilyn Diaz won a silver medal in weightlifting. Diaz, of course, is back for her fourth straight Olympiad. But that’s not the only reason why I share Ramirez’s optimism.
We are no longer pinning our medal hopes in one or even two sports. In fact, the last to qualify for the games—golfer Yuka Saso—has as much or if not even a better chance for a medal as the first to qualify for the games, gymnast Carlos Yulo.
Both earned a first for the country, Yulo in becoming the first world champion from the country in gymnastics, and Saso in becoming the first Pinay to win the US Women’s Open.
Aside from the two, there’s OJ Obenia in athletics and for the past year or so, he’s been breaking records left and right in pole vault and of course, our boxers Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial.
Marcial has been courting controversies ever since he turned pro but for the past few weeks, he has stayed out of the news and for me that’s a good thing. He has had his fair share of critics but I know, come Tokyo, those critics will be behind him.
That’s how hungry we are for an Olympic gold and I hope one of the 19 will finally win one in Tokyo. He or she would be set for life. Diaz, aside from the incentives from the government, got a lot from the private sector for winning a silver in Rio. Imagine what our first gold medalist would get.
But I know that’s not the main motivator of our Olympians. Their number one goal is to hear the Philippine anthem played in the medal ceremony of the games.
With our strongest delegation ever, this is going to be our best chance.