Mequi's untold tales

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -

Former PSC chairman Perry Mequi shared two interesting stories about Filipino Olympic bronze medalists Teofilo Yldefonso and Simeon Toribio when we chatted on stage after the first Philippine Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement rites at the Manila Hotel last week.

Mequi said it was the late UP professor Candido Bartolome, known as the country’s “father of physical education,” who said Yldefonso and Toribio could’ve won gold medals if not for “extraneous” circumstances at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

“I was professor Bartolome’s pet,” beamed Mequi. “So he often shared secrets with me.” Bartolome and Dr. Regino Ylanan were the NCAA’s primary founders in 1924. Bartolome earned a post-graduate degree at Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1929 and was inducted as a distinguished alumnus of the prestigious school in 1979. For over 50 years, Bartolome was at the forefront of an assiduous campaign to promote sports and physical education throughout the country. His son Achilles, a surgeon, is one of the country’s top urologists.

At the 1932 Olympics, Bartolome was the Philippines’ delegation head. Other officials in the national contingent were J. C. Aliviar, Jose Padilla, H. J. Scoffield and Fernando Bautista.

Mequi said the night before Yldefonso swam in the finals of the 200-meter breaststroke, Bartolome specifically instructed the 27-year-old “Ilocano Shark” to keep the windows of his hotel room shut.

“There was no air-conditioning but it was cold outside,” related Mequi. “Professor Bartolome warned Yldefonso that if he opened the windows, he could catch a cold. That night, it was warm inside the room and Yldefonso couldn’t sleep. He was perspiring. So he opened the windows. When he woke up in the morning, he had the sniffles and ran a fever.”

* * * *

Yldefonso was feverish when he reported to swim in the finals. He broke out to an early lead but faltered down the stretch. Yldefonso clocked 2:47.1 to finish behind gold medalist Yoshiyuki Tsuruta of Japan (2:45.4) and silver medalist Reizo Koike, also of Japan, (2:46.6). The effort was good for a bronze medal. But at the end of the race, Yldefonso collapsed.

In his preliminary heat, Yldefonso finished first with a time of 2:53.7 and in the semifinals, took second at 2:48.4. Yldefonso appeared to be on target for a gold medal in the finals until the window incident.

Four years earlier, Yldefonso became the country’s first-ever Olympic medalist by pocketing the bronze in the same event at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. He is in the record books as the only Filipino double Olympic medalist.

In 1942, Yldefonso died defending his country as a soldier with the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts in Bataan.

* * * *

As for Toribio, he, too, could’ve won an Olympic gold medal if not for struggling to ignore the call of nature during four hours of competition in high jump.

Toribio and three others cleared the bar starting at 5-3 then 6-feet, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and 6-5 1/2. No one was allowed to leave the field as officials lined up the contestants one by one to assault the bar. Toribio badly wanted to go to the restroom but couldn’t. Two jumpers eventually cleared 6-6, leaving Toribio and American Cornelius Johnson to dispute third place. Using the standing scissors kick style of jumping, Toribio leaped to 6-5 5/8 to bag the bronze.

It was a vengeful achievement for the 5-11 jumper who at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, slipped out of the medal race after a jumpoff to settle a four-way tie for second place. Toribio, Claude Menard of France and Benjamin Hedges and Harold Osborn of the US each cleared 6-3 to tie for second. Toribio slid to fourth after the jumpoff.

Toribio, who earned a civil engineering degree at the University of Southern California and later became a lawyer, was awarded the Helms World Trophy as Asia’s most outstanding athlete in 1930. He was the undisputed Asian champion in high jump from 1927 to 1934. Toribio served as a Bohol congressman in 1941-53 and died in 1969 at the age of 63.

To this day, no Filipino has won an Olympic gold medal. Since making its Olympic debut in 1924, the Philippines has collected only two silver and seven bronze medals. The silvers were brought in by fighters Anthony Villanueva (1964) and Onyok Velasco (1996) while the bronzes came from Yldefonso (1928, 1932), Toribio (1932), Jose Villanueva (1932), Miguel White (1936), Leopoldo Serrantes (1988) and Roel Velasco (1992).











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