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Freeman Cebu Sports

Lean and mean 19

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. But years later the most famous footprint was eclipsed by a man who didn’t fly to walk light on the natural satellite. Michael Jackson moonwalked to fame, fortune and immortality.

But in the same year while one of the richer countries in the world spent millions to explore outer space rather than feed the hungry elsewhere on earth, a Filipina captured the universe. Gloria Diaz since then fixated us to a universal pageant for earthlings. Flawed, we may not be alone.

Fast forward to half a century later, four people including a woman rewrote history two days ago when they successfully completed the first human flight for space tourism, even if not all inner space on earth have been visited by the human race. But will another Filipino steal the thunder again from a defining moment in human history?

Hopefully, but not from pageantry but from sports. After a year of uncertainty, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics finally opens tomorrow, where 19 Filipino athletes are burdened to feed the country’s hunger for the first ever gold that eluded it for a century.

EJ Obiena, the winged pole vaulter whose arrival time forced him to not bear the flag in the opening parade, may raise it in the medal ceremony instead. Kristina Marie Knott may be regional and continental fast in both sprints, but is only expected to improve her personal best against world fastest.

Gymnast Carlos Yulo may not only medal in floor exercise but also in the vault and parallel bar. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz may turn her silver into gold in her fourth straight Olympics. Could be her last, but heir apparent Elreen Ando from the queen city of the south is ready to continue her glorious past.

Another Cebuana, Margielyn Didal, may skate to a golden treble after winning the region and the continent. At least one of four boxers should slug to the podium, middleweight Eumir Marcial, featherweight Nesthy Petecio, flyweights Irish Magno and Carlo Paalam. History is on their side. Boxing accounts for half the ten medals won by the country in Olympic history, two of them silver.

Golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan are at par with world best, especially Yuka who won US Open. Then there is judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa and shooter Jayson Valdez. But only two swimmers from a country surrounded by water qualified, Remedy Rule and Luke Gebbie who did not even learn to swim in the archipelago.

 Touted most prepared and strongest, they are tipped to bring home half a dozen medals, one of them gold. Hopeful forecast. Quality of competition aside, their biggest obstacle is the occasion itself. It is the Olympics, the pinnacle of amateur sports. Overwhelming, but one or two of them may rewrite history. Or herstory. And ourstory.

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