Our new hopes for Olympic medals

Published October 17, 2019, 12:39 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

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.