Gold in 2020?
SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - October 22, 2019 - 12:00am

The Philippines first joined the Olympics in Paris in 1924, sending a lone entry, David Nepomuceno. Wow! That’s 95 years ago and we still have to win that elusive gold.  We came close several times when boxer Anthony Villanueva missed the gilt in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in a controversial bout which many believed he won.  Onyok Velasco also settled for the silver in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  After Onyok’s stint, the Philippines experienced a medal drought until weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.  That’s 20 years without winning a medal of any color.

Going back to our medal haul, it was only in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics where swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso won our first medal, a bronze in the 200-meter breaststroke. In 1932, we won three bronze medals and another bronze in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Since then, the country did not win another medal until Villanueva’s silver in 1964.  So if you look at the trend, it’s only in boxing where we excelled.  In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Ilonggo Leopoldo Serantes won the bronze while in the 1992 Barcelona Games another Ilonggo, Roel Velasco, Onyok’s brother won the bronze. 

It’s a pity that the Philippines once regarded as the Tiger of Asia, is now being left behind by our Southeast Asia neighbors Thailand has won nine gold medals, Indonesia, seven, Vietnam and Singapore, one each.  However, there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel with the current success of our athletes in gymnastics and women’s boxing. 

Caloy Yulo, who won the gold in this year’s World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgard, Germany is our best bet for our first ever Olympic gold medal.  Another potential is Nesthy Petecio, who struck gold in the 2019 AIBA Women’s Boxing Championships in Ulan Ude, Russia, when she won a 3-2 split decision over Liudmila Vorontsova in the featherweight class.  Hidilyn Diaz could also spring surprises in Tokyo.  So will we finally get our first gold medal?  My good friend Mona Sulaiman, once considered Asia’s fastest woman said “Maka gold kaya tayo before we die”?.  Sad to say, Mona will never know, she died two years ago. Mona and I were together in the 1996 Asian Masters Athletics Championship in Seoul Korea.

UAAP: Ateneo, NCAA: San Beda

The Final Four in the NCAA and UAAP has not started yet but I’m already proclaiming San Beda, NCAA champion and Ateneo, UAAP king.  Unless a major catastrophe happens like a building collapsing on the entire Blue Eagles and Red Lions teams, there’s no stopping both squads.  San Beda has remain unbeatened in 18 games while the Blue Eagles are likewise unmarked in 12 games.

Did you know?

PAULA RADCLIFFE. On March 8, 2003, 36 days before the London marathon, Paula Radcliff was on the final phase of her training in Albuquerque, New Mexico when an accident occurred.  A young biker hit Radcliffe causing her to fall down, breaking her sunglasses, dislocating her jaw while suffering abrasions on her shoulder and knees.  After being advised to rest for a few days, she was back on the road. The following month, she smashed her own record when she clocked 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds to win the London Marathon.  Her record still stands to date, unbroken for 16 years.

CASSIUS CLAY VERSUS HENRY COOPER. Before his non-title fight with Henry Cooper of Great Britain on June 18, 1963, Cassius Clay was in his usual insulting way.  “Henry Cooper is nothing but a tramp, he’s a bum, I’m the world’s greatest, he will fall in five rounds”.  Copper was a warm up fight for Clay’s forthcoming heavyweight challenge against then champion Sonny Liston.  Ever so confident, Clay got careless and was floored in the fourth round with Cooper’s left hook.  Clay was lucky the bell rang.  Sitting in his corner, Clay was clearly dazed. 

Clay’s clever trainer Angelo Dundee  called for a new glove and while a spare glove was being taken from the dressing room, two minutes had elapsed. People believed it was a delaying tactic employed by Dundee to give Clay some time to recover.  True enough, Clay dusted the cobwebs and came out of his corner, smoking. After battering Cooper, almost closing his eyes and with blood pouring out, the fight was stopped in the fifth round. Cooper and Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) met again in 1966, this time in a heavyweight title fight.  Again, Cooper known as bleeder, got tagged by Ali in the sixth round with blood cascading down his whole body.  The bout was stopped.  But Cooper got the respect of Ali after being the first boxer to deck the “Lip”.  Cooper died on May 1, 2011.

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