What happened to the last Filipino back-to-back Olympic medalist?

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
What happened to the last Filipino back-to-back Olympic medalist?
Teofilo Yldefonso
FILE / International Swimming Hall of Fame

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' weightlifting golden girl Hidilyn Diaz became the first Filipino to win back-to-back Olympic medals since 1932.

But whatever happened to the first Filipino to ever do it, swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso?

Like Diaz, Yledfonso was a history maker for Philippine sports for various reasons — first, he was the first-ever Filipino athlete to win an Olympic medal, just four years since the Philippines started competing in the Games.

He won bronze in the men's 200-meter breastroke.

Then in 1932, he repeated his feat, which included him in the Philippines' last multi-medal haul in the Olympics before Diaz and Nesthy Petecio ended the drought this year.

His bronze joined Simeon Toribio and Jose Villanueva's bronzes also in athletics and boxing, respectively.

But Yldefonso was more than a hero for the Philippines in the swimming pool, as he was an enlisted member of the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts — which had him seeing action in the battlefield under American officers in the US Army's Philippine Department.

This was actually where he became a competitive swimmer, joining various meets like the Far Eastern Games and the Philippines vs Formosa Dual Meets in the 1920s and 1930s.

His last glipse of the Olympics would be in the 1936 Berlin Summer Games, where Yldefonso placed seventh in the 200-meter breaststroke.

Yldefonso bade farewell to swimming when World War II broke out in 1942, where he was among thousands of Filipino and American soldiers engaged in battle against the Japanese.

That same year, Yldefonso went through and survived the infamous Death March to Capas.

He, however, died at the concentration camp in the arms of his brother Teodoro, who is a medical corps worker. He was 38.

Interestingly enough, Yldefonso's swimming rival and friend of many years Yoshi Tsuruta was an officer of the Japanese army during that time.

It is said that Tsuruta had called for Yldefonso's release but it was unfortunately too late. It is also believed that Yldefonso received word of his release but refused to leave his men.

Yldefonso was buried in a mass grave, with his remains never to be recovered until this day.

In 2010, Yldefonso was named to the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a "pioneer" swimmer.

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