It was with a great sense of pride that the nation learned this Monday of the victories of two Filipino athletes in the highest levels of amateur sports – Carlos Edriel Yulo in gymnastics and Nesthy Petecio in women’s boxing.
Yulo of Malate, Manila, a 19-year-old standing at only four feet, 11 inches, won the gold medal in the floor exercise at the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) World Artistic Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He won by the slimmest of margins – 15,300 points against 15,200 points – over Artem Dolgopyat of Israel, who had been the leading qualifier and frontrunner in the competition until the performance of Yulo, next to the last competitor. In third place was Xiao Routeng of China, with 14,933 points.
For the first tme ever in the world gymnastics competition, “Lupang Hinirang,” the Philippine national anthem, was played after Yulo received his gold medal in floor exercise, one of the six events in the Stuttgart championships. He will now join pole vaulter E. J. Oblena, the first Filipino ahlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 .
Hours after Yulo’s victory in Germany, Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio overcame hometown favorite Ludmila Vorontsova in a 3-2 split decision to win the gold medal in the featherweight division of the 2019 Women’s World Boxing Championship of the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur (AIBA) in Ulan-Ude, Russia.
On her way to the featherweight finals, Petecio had beaten qualifiers from Japan, China, Bulgaria, and Spain, and a boxer from England in the semifinal. In previous international events, she had won silver in bantamweight in Jakarta in 2011, in Myanmar in 2013, in Singapore in 2015, and in the Asian Amateur Boxing Championships in Wulanchabu, Mongolia, in 2015.
These gold medal victories have come as we prepare for the Southeast Asian Games which the Philippines is hosting next month. But we are also looking farther ahead to the Summer Olympic Games which will be held in Tokyo, Japan, in 2020.
The Philippines began participating in the Olympics in the 1924 summer games in Paris, France. We won our first medal – a bronze – by swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1928. We won three more bronzes in Los Angeles, United States, in 1932, and another bronze in Berlin, Germany, in 1936.
The highest Olympic medals we have ever won are three silvers – by boxer Anthony Villanueva in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964; boxer Mansueto Velasco in Atlanta, US, in 1996; and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.
We have long looked to our boxers, swimmers, and more recently to our weightlifters in international sports competitions. We may yet discover other possibilities in next month’s SEA Games. We can now add our gymnasts led by young Yulo to our medal hopes for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.