Freeman Cebu Sports

Holy OLY!

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

Have you met OLY or an OLY? Or OLYs? “What is OLY,” you ask.

According to Wikipedia, “OLY (Olympian) are post-nominal letters granted by the World Olympians Association (WOA) to athletes who have participated in the Olympic Games. The World Olympians Association’s initiative allows Olympians to use the OLY lettering on any official documentation after their name much like when one gets a degree. The initiative is open to all athletes who have competed at the games and who uphold the values and practices of the Olympic Charter and the World Olympians Association Code of Conduct.”

This bleacher bum has been following the Olympics ever since my father told us that it was THE competition of all competitions. I looked up the history books and even memorized the cities that hosted every edition in the 20th century. If the Olympics were the peak of all competitions, then it was only logical that it gathered the best athletes of the planet. Getting the chance to meet them will always be high on the bucket list. And so I ask. Have you met an OLY?

This bleacher bum did meet not only one, but four OLYs at the first edition of the Online Sports Leadership Program organized by the Philippine Olympians Association (POA) and the Ateneo de Davao Athletics Office. Akiko Thomson-Guevara (swimming), Stephen Fernandez  (taekwondo), Elma Muros-Posadas (athletics) and Eric Buhain (swimming) graced the online forum with their stories that revealed how they worked hard to qualify for the Olympics and how the Olympic values continue to resonate in their lives today. On different occasions, I’ve also met our very own Mary Joy Tabal Oly, the first Pinay marathoner to have qualified for an Olympic games and 2016 Olympic silver medallist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting. Talking and listening to them is like tennis fans getting the chance to shake the hands of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic; or basketball loyalists meeting Kobe Bryant, Lebron James or Michael Jordan.

The online forum kicked off with POA president Akiko Thomson-Guevara, the elite swimmer of our days who competed in three Olympic games and had male sports fans admiring her for her beauty-and-brains. Respect leads to fair play as integrity leads to excellence. These were the Olympic values that Akiko Thomson-Guevara shared as she looked back at her career and Olympic journey. “What resonates really for me is respect because when I think of respect, it’s respect for the game; for the rules of the game; respect for opponents; basically it’s fair play,” Akiko shared. She then added that integrity is reflected in the way we go about our daily lives. “I really feel that the way we play sports is the way we play life. Integrity: it’s who you are when no one sees you,” she added. When you hear your idol-crush-wonder woman speak like that, you’re left in awe. “Wow! Wake me up before you go go. Don’t leave me hanging on like a yoyo.”

Next up was Stephen “Pen” Fernandez, a two-time Olympian and one of a few Pinoy OLYs to have won a medal (bronze) at the Olympics. Taekwondo may have been a demo sport in 1992, but a medal is a medal. Pen talked about how his Olympic and over-all sports journey was about friendship.  Reflecting on why friendship is considered as an Olympic value, he cited one review that said that “friendship is at the heart of the Olympic movement. It encourages to see sports as an instrument of mutual understanding between individuals between people all over the world. If there is friendship, there will be no wars and injustice because friendship unites people and when you are united, there are so many things that you can do,” he said.

Elma Muros-Posadas to me is a super woman with a heart who proves that even if one comes from poor and humble beginnings, an Olympic stint is not an impossible feat. She’s an eight-time long jump champion at the Southeast Asian Games and a two-time Olympian with her first foray as a skinny and frail 18-year old who went up against taller and more muscular competitors in Hollywood at the 1984 LA Olympics. She also saw action in the 1996 Olympics. Not only was she a long jump queen, she was also female Swiss knife. She also competed in hurdles events (100M and 400M), was part of relay teams (4X100 and 4X400), and also took part in heptathlon (seven events in one). Now retired, she continues her journey by helping young and underprivileged athletes from the provinces who are out to do an Elma Muros. “Ang hinaharap ko ang makatulong sa kabataan dahil sayang ang talent. Ang sarap ng feeling na makatulong. Ito ang iiral naming legacy mag asawa,” she says.

Eric Buhain went to the 1988 and 1992 Olympiads and cited the value of excellence as something that stands out in his journey. At the age of ten, his parents asked him what he wanted to achieve in swimming: go to the Olympics or win at the Palaro. Buhain chose the five rings and the rest is history. He reached milestones of his journey “inch by inch,” starting by practicing with girls to winning age group competitions, winning golds at the SEAG, making it to the Olympics AND graduating cum laude from the La Salle University in Philadelphia. This is coming from a skinny kid was once diagnosed with Primary Complex, was hit by Hepatitis A and wasn’t fast enough to swim with the boys. Excellence to him? “It’s not always about the winning. It’s improving and making yourself better the day after you won.” Slam dunk!

Malcolm Gladwell in book “Outliers” describes them to be individuals who despite being like everyone else their age, were unique, different and extraordinary individuals within. We met four of them and yes, they’re all legit OLYs. Outstanding Lives for You.

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