Written by: Justin
Edited by: Jagat
Visual by: Sarah
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is now commonly referred to as the coming out party for the Philippines. With one gold, two silvers and one bronze, the Philippines had its best ever Olympic campaign and came out top among the ASEAN countries.
Today, we focus on the four Filipino Olympians who brought home medals.
Hidilyn Diaz, the Philippines’ First Olympic Gold Medalist
On July 26, three days into the Games, Hidilyn Diaz secured the Philippines its first ever Olympic gold medal as she won the women’s 55kg weightlifting event.
Diaz first competed in the Olympics as a wildcard entry in the 2008 Beijing Games, becoming the first ever Filipina to compete in weightlifting. She finished the Games at 11th, a solid debut at the Olympics.
Entering the Rio 2016 Olympic games, Diaz succeeded in a number of Olympic qualifying competitions, most notably winning gold in the 2015 Asian Weightlifting Championship, and collecting bronze in the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship. With much more experience under her belt, she was able to perform spectacularly winning the silver medal, the country’s first since 1996, and the first non-boxing medal since 1936.
Diaz entered Tokyo with immense confidence gained through her numerous medals at pre-olympic competitions and success at the 2016 games. Just like in Rio, Diaz had a remarkable performance in Tokyo. She set an Olympic record of 127kg in the clean and jerk, for a total of 224kg, another Olympic record.
In addition to her two Olympic records, the 30-year-old from Zamboanga also became the first Filipina athlete to win double Olympic medals as she paired her Tokyo gold with her 2016 Rio Olympic silver medal.
The gold medal Hidilyn Diaz won ended the country’s 97-year wait, making her an icon in Philippine sports and an inspiration to all aspiring athletes.
Nesthy Petecio, the First Filipina Olympic Boxing Medalist
With her silver medal in boxing, Nesthy Petecio became the first Filipina boxer to win an Olympic medal. Petecio fell just short of gold, losing to Seni Irie of Japan by unanimous decision.
She previously failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics at Rio. She then suffered another devastating blow when she lost her opening bout at the 2018 Asian Games. Her confidence hit rock bottom and she ultimately decided to take a break from the sport to recover and re-focus.
Petecio made her return in fashion, winning the 2019 World Championships. “Winning the 2019 World Championships has helped me a lot. It has certainly added to my self confidence,” she said. However, she still had a bigger goal in mind: winning at the Olympics. With the Games postponed for a year due to COVID, she used this extra time to train and prepare mentally. It would all pay off on August 3, when Petecio won her silver medal to cap off her sensational run in Tokyo.
Petecio’s story is incredible; she went from collecting chicken droppings to collecting medals on the greatest sporting stage on the planet. In light of her exceptional performance, she was chosen to be the country’s flag bearer in the closing ceremony.
Carlo Paalam, Boxing Men’s Flyweight Silver Medalist
On August 7 at the Kokugikan Arena, Carlos Paalam won the Men’s Flyweight silver medal. In the gold medal bout, the 23-year-old boxer from Cagayan de Oro fell to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai by split decision, 4-1.
Paalam’s path to the gold medal match was one of the toughest, but he proved to be a true contender coming out on top time and time again. On his path to the gold medal match, he beat multiple experienced Olympians, even defeating the 2016 Rio Olympic champion, the world number one Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, in the quarterfinals.
Paalam inspired many with his Olympic story, as he went from scavenging metal scraps to becoming an Olympic medalist. He was emotional when receiving the silver medal which was made out of recycled electronic gadgets, as it reminded him of the beginning of his journey.
Eumir Marcial, Boxing Men’s Middleweight Bronze Medalist
Eumir Marcial secured a bronze medal in the men’s middleweight event after falling to Ukrainian Oleksandr Khyzhniak in the semifinal by split decision, 3-2.
The 25-year-old from Zamboanga had the honor of carrying the Philippine flag during the opening ceremony. Due to his high ranking, Marcial earned a bye in the first round. He had an impressive showing at his first Olympic campaign, making quick work of his opponents, including a knockout of Armenia’s Arman Darichinyan which punched his ticket into the medal round. Ultimately, Marcial fell just short of the gold medal match, losing to the reigning European champion, Khyzhaniak.
With his run at Tokyo, Marcial became one of just twelve athletes to win a medal for the Philippines.
The feats achieved by our athletes in the Tokyo Games showcased the Filipino’s ability to compete successfully on the world’s highest stage. Aside from the four medalists mentioned above, the Philippines has a crop of other promising talents in gymnastics, high jump, and track and field. It will be exciting to see what is in store for the 2024 Paris Games!