It’s been 97 years since our first Olympic appearance in Paris. In total, we have joined 22 Olympic Games. The only times we skipped were in 1940 (World War II) and 1980 when we boycotted the Moscow Olympics.
In our 97 years of participation and 22 appearances, we have sent a total of 517 Filipino Olympians. Out of that, we have medaled 14 times — that’s eight bronze, five silver and one golden Gold.
Our 14 medals were won by 12 athletes. Teofilo Yldefonso (200-meter breaststroke) snapped our first hardware in 1928 in Amsterdam, and he won bronze again four years later in Los Angeles. Our heroic Hidilyn Diaz, of course, won silver in the 2016 Olympiad and gold two weeks ago.
Of our 14 Olympic medals, eight were won in boxing, and two each in athletics, swimming and weightlifting.
Weightlifting was one of the attractions in the 1896 Athens Olympics. Only 43 events in nine sports were played in the first Olympics and this included the sport of Diaz.
The first weightlifting event? One hand lift. They used dumbbells and the man (no women joined the 1896 Olympics) who could lift the heaviest dumbbell won. If they tied, the judges would pick the man with the best style and adjudge him the winner.
Fast forward 115 years later, the Tokyo Olympics featured seven bodyweight categories each for the men and women. What’s the goal of this sport? As stated on the Olympics website, “The aim of weightlifting is simple: to lift more than anyone else. The result is pure sporting theatre and a real spectator favorite.”
Weightlifting might appear to be purely a physical sport, but it’s just as mental. Lifting more than double your bodyweight requires explosive strength, focus, technique and unreal mental fortitude.
Diaz weighs 54.90 kgs. (121 lbs.). Her gold-winning lift in the clean and jerk event was 127 kgs. (280 lbs.). This means that she carried 2.31 times her body weight. Think about that for a second. Multiply your weight by 2.3 and carry that weight. I doubt it if we’ll be able to lift it a few inches off the floor.
Among the men, the greatest is Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia. Two weeks ago, I watched him (via Cignal cable) lift world records in the snatch (223kg.) and clean and jerk (265kg.) for a total 488 kgs. He won the Olympic gold and set the world record. He’s planning to become the first human being to lift a combined total of 500 kgs. (1,102 lbs.).
This is the good news. The sad news? There’s a chance weightlifting will be stricken off from the 2024 Paris Olympics. Corruption and doping issues are prevalent, and these have tainted the sport. Some countries have incurred violations and been given outright bans. No less than the IOC has issued warnings to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). Their mandate: Clean up or goodbye, clean and jerk.
Yesterday, I messaged Monico Puentevella, our nation’s weightlifting chieftain. He’s hopeful the sport will continue, mentioning our Cebuana weightlifter (who placed seventh in Tokyo): “Glad (Elreen) Aldo will be in Paris 2024 too. She’ll be ready for a medal then.”