A miracle in Tokyo.
That is how I am going to describe the campaign of the Philippine delegation at the 2020 Summer Olympics that is currently being held in Tokyo, Japan.
For the first time since it began participating at the Olympic Games, the Philippine delegation has scored a major medal haul. So far, Filipino athletes have won four Olympic medals, composed of a gold medal from weightlifting, and two silver medals and one bronze medal from boxing. The four-medal haul at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics already breached the output of the last large Olympic medal haul by the Philippine delegation, which happened at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics when Filipino athletes won three bronze medals.
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The campaign of the Philippine delegation at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics saw history being made. After winning the silver medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Hidilyn Diaz won the gold medal for weightlifting, the very first Olympic gold medal won by a Filipino athlete. Nesthy Petecio won the silver medal for women’s boxing, the first time a Filipina boxer won an Olympic medal in such sport. Carlo Paalam won the first Olympic men’s boxing silver medal for the Philippines since Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won a silver medal during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Eumir Marcial completed the three-medal haul for the Philippine boxing team when he won the Olympic bronze medal.
The Tokyo Olympics also saw more of our athletes reaching the finals of their respective sports. Ernest John Obiena reached the pole vault finals, with him being the lone Asian in a sport that was dominated by European and North American athletes, but he was not able to score a podium finish after failing to finish the 5.80 meter jump. Gymnast Carlos Yulo reached the finals in one of the gymnastics events despite him nursing a minor injury, with him being ranked fourth at the end of the competition.
It was also the first time that Filipino athletes qualified for several Olympic sporting events. Margielyn Didal qualified for the Olympic skateboarding competition, with her capturing the hearts of many with her bubbly attitude and friendly nature despite not being able to win a podium finish. US Ladies Open champion Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan, and Junvic Pagunsan represented the Philippines in the Olympic golf competition.
The miracle in Tokyo is not exactly a “miracle” but a result of an increase in financial, material and moral support to Filipino athletes from both the government and the private sector.
The Duterte administration’s spending on the national teams has been increasing tremendously during the past five years, with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) receiving a budget of P1.3 billion in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Duterte administration’s expenditure on the national teams was significantly higher than the miniscule funds allocated to our national athletes by the administration of Benigno Aquino III, which, with expenditure not even greater than P240 million per year, were even lower than what was spent on them the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which was between P267 million to P319 million yearly. The increased funding for sports enabled the government, via the PSC, to give athletes much larger allowances and incentives, as what both the medalists and other members of the Philippine delegation to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics received.
The increased State support to the national athletes and teams by the Duterte administration also resulted in the construction of new, and renovation and expansion of existing sports facilities. The construction of the New Clark City Sports Complex, with a 20,000-seat open-air athletics and football stadium as its centerpiece, and the renovation of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila and the Philsports Complex in Pasig were done mainly for hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games but the said facilities are now being used for training of our national athletes and even hosted the training of some visiting foreign teams, such as the Israeli national swimming team, which trained at the New Clark City Aquatics Center in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The sports complexes in New Clark City, Manila and Pasig also have more than decent living quarters and dining areas for our athletes, as well as better access to resident nutritionists, sports medicine practitioners and sports psychologists. The Duterte administration also championed grassroots sports training and development through the launching of the New Clark City-based Philippine Academy for Sports, which seems to be the direct successor of the Gintong Alay program that was launched during the administration of Ferdinand Marcos and produced legendary athletes such as Lydia de Vega-Mercado and Elma Muros-Posadas.
The private sector initiative to help the national teams has always been there but it has grown tremendously since Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., the brother of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino and uncle of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, was replaced as head of the Philippine Olympic Committee. More businessmen and conglomerates have extended support to the national teams and athletes through the various national sports associations. On top of an increased State support being given by the Duterte administration, increased private sector support enabled the national teams to afford the services of foreign coaches who train and develop the athletes, and do training overseas, both of which have not happened in the past.
The “miracle” started during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which were held in the Philippines, and is still continuing now at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Indeed, investing in our national teams and athletes through a joint effort by the government and the private sector can go a long way. The performance of the Philippine delegation at the Tokyo Olympics is outstanding but our national teams and athletes, now assured of a government that attends to their needs and a private sector that is willing to extend the necessary financial and material support, can now do much better consistency and continuously, especially when they prepare for future competitions.
Agricultural Economist. Communicator. Commentator. Contented dog parent.