Faster, higher, stronger – together

Published August 5, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Sonny Coloma


Sonny Coloma

Athletic competition is a mirror of real-life conflicts and struggles.  The Olympic motto, modified recently in light of a crippling global pandemic, truly inspires: faster, higher, stronger – together.  Solidarity amid desolation has become an Olympic ideal.

Recall the high anxiety that clouded the run-up to the opening of the Tokyo Olympics after it had been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Imagine how different the world would be today if the Olympics were cancelled.

While the nation is still gripped by the COVID-19 scourge – and threatened by the emergence of the deadly Delta variant – Filipinos have been energized by weightlifter Hidylin Diaz’s unprecedented gold medal achievement.

Even her fellow Filipino athletes’ enthusiasm has trebled. Her stunning victory fired up three Filipino boxers who have since joined her in cobbling the Filipinos’ best Olympic performance since the 1932 Los Angeles Games where we won three bronze medals.

As of this writing, Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio has won a silver, after losing a close bout to hometown bet Sena Irie.  Today in Tokyo, Carlos Paalam and Eumir Marcial climb up the ring already assured of bronze medals – but they are determined to win and bring home two more golds on Saturday, August 7.

Filipina-Japanese golfer Yuka Saso, who fired up the nation’s imagination last June by being, at age 19, the youngest winner of the US Women’s Open, also began yesterday her quest for Olympic glory with her fellow Asian and SEA Games gold medalist Bianca Pagdanganan.  Both are world-ranked players and seasoned international competitors – who are aspiring to become, like Hidylin and Nesthy, Filipina Olympic medal winners.

During the medal ceremony, the flags of the top three winners are raised simultaneously, with the Olympic champion’s flag rising higher than those of the flags of the runners-up’s countries.  Most importantly, the national anthem of the champion’s country is played.  This was the golden moment when Hidylin teared up while making a snappy salute to our country’s flag. I also found himself in tears as I witnessed the event on a video playback – and many more friends admitted unabashedly that this made them cry, too.

Another magic Hidylin moment has surfaced and gone viral on social media.

This is an Instagram video post that shows her hoisting an improvised barbell made up of a bamboo pole to which were attached, on opposite ends, two large containers of mineral water.  Along with the video post was the following message –

“Time flies so fast during this pandemic. The lockdown started last March and now, we are approaching December.

“Looking back when the first lockdown (MCO) happened, me and #Team HD and were so worried. We were wondering where we would train and if our journey toward Olympics will stop.

“Good thing I’m with good company and we became creative to find ways to train. We do everything to stay in track and in shape for Olympics.

“Yes, I do this. I carry a bottle of water for my weightlifting training. It’s hard but we survive, still living the dream in my heart.

“How did you maintain your sports career during this pandemic?”

This video clip was recorded in her training camp that was provided by Ahmad Janius, deputy president of the Malaysian Weightlifting Federation. Janus is proud that Diaz’s hard work paid off after she trained for more than a year at his house in Jasin, Malacca province, that is a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Indeed, this is a manifestation of international solidarity in sports.  But wait, here’s an even more amazing story from a YouTube video clip that has gone viral.

After two hours of competition in the men’s high jump, two athletes recorded the best clearances of 2.37 meters: Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi.  The referee told them there was going to be a jump-off.  The Qatari asked him, “Can we have two golds?” The referee answered, “Yes, that’s possible.”  Hearing the reply, both men hugged each other in jubilation.

Tamberi then ran to the track oval and even rolled on it for a few moments, seemingly incredulous at the turn of events. He then picked up the leg cast that he used while training. On it he had written “Road to Tokyo 2020.”  Barshim walked on the ramp leading up to the bleachers to thank his supporters.  He had lackluster stints in London and Rio de Janeiro before claiming back to back world titles prior to the Tokyo Games.

Indeed, they could have fought tooth-and-nail but they opted to share the glory of gold.

Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries have recognized a new word –  Coopetition – which is a blend of “cooperation” and “competition” and defined as: “the act of working together with a person or company who is your business competitor in a way that benefits both of you.”