Sunday, August 24, 2008

We Won Gold! Too Bad It Doesn’t Count...

The Beijing Olympics ends tonight. If you missed the opening ceremony two weeks ago like I did then you have missed a lot, believe me. With Zhang Yimou heading the said cultural presentation, it is guaranteed to be a spectacular show. The closing ceremony will be aired live tonight at 8 PM, though I do not know if they could replicate the grandeur of two weeks ago.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was once quoted saying that one of her legacies would be a gold medal in the Olympics. We have to congratulate her because it came true! We won a gold medal... in Wushu, which really does not count because it was just an exhibition sport. I saw a replay of the awarding ceremony earlier this morning. There he was, our Wushu Olympic gold medalist, singing as our national anthem was being played, the Philippine flag flying high between the flags of Malaysia and Chinese Taipei. 


This is not the first time we won an Olympic gold. We also won in Bowling some decades ago, which also happened to be just an exhibition sport. I am not sure but I think Bowling is still not an official Olympic sport. If that is the case, then what would be the chances of Wushu becoming official?

The Southeast Asian medal haul was spearheaded by Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia when they won gold, silver, and 2 bronze medals, respectively, in weightlifting. Our very own bet Hidylin Diaz managed to beat her own Philippine record but only finished 11th out of twelve competitors.

We had four medal hopefuls in Track and Field, Shooting, and Archery. They bowed out of the competition silently, cutting down the number of potential medal winners to ten. The typical Pinoy would not even know that these events existed. Most Filipinos are only aware that we have a boxer in there and two Tekwondo jins. Shooting, is that even a sport? Well apparently, YES.

Then it was our five swimmers’ turn to give us a flicker of hope, and they did not disappoint. JB Walsh finished 1st in his heats but only came in 29th overall. Hawaiian Christel Simms and Daniel Coakley beat their own personal and SEA Games records but did not make the cut.
On the contrary, Ryan Paolo Arabejo and Miguel Molina faded into obscurity as the world watched Michael Phelps break one Olympic record after another, eventually becoming the best Olympic swimmer ever. Our swimmers, one by one, lost their chance on a medal in the five-day stretch in which they competed.

We can never be a powerhouse in swimming because we are
generally short, and deviants, like 5"10 Japanese breaststroke Olympic champ Kosuke Kitajima, are more of an exception rather than the rule. I guess that is the reason why only Miguel Molina seems to be the pure Pinoy in our five-man swimming delegation this year. We have to depend on Fil-Ams to anchor our Olympic swimming dream. I have nothing against them, though. They ARE Filipinos too, but one could not help but speculate that they are only swimming under our flag because competition under the US banner is stiff. With our hope of an Olympic swimming medal dead in the water, we then turned to one sport that might just end our twelve-year medal drought. Boxing.

Boxing is popular in the Philippines because of Manny Pacquiao but even before he became famous, we already won a silver medal in Atlanta twelve years ago, albeit with another cheating allegation that we were supposed to have won gold. That happened to be the last medal we ever got from the Olympics. Nonetheless, if there is an Olympic event where we have a genuine chance to win something it would be in boxing.
Unfortunately, not this year.

The Filipino spirit was heavily dampened when Pinoy favorite Harry Tañamor was defeated by a boxer from Ghana. Speculations that we were cheated immediately surfaced. Allegation of cheating is also a Filipino sport, and a versatile one to boot. It could be played anywhere, from your local and national elections to of course, the Olympics and the Southeast Asian Games.

We cannot blame Tañamor though. He was very eager to win. I just could not help but think that maybe the pressure was too much for him to handle. In a country where only Boxing, Billiards, and maybe Sabong are considered as authentic “sports,” would you not be pressured knowing that you are the only boxer in the fray? Billiards is not an official Olympic sport so you would not really expect an Efren “Bata” Reyes or a Django Bustamante to share the pressure there with you. Of course, there were no sabongeros there either.

Tañamor’s dream of ending our twelve-year Olympic medal drought drowned with that of our swimmers. With eleven of our fifteen hopefuls out of the competition, chances became dim. As we sulked in defeat, Indonesia managed to prove that it is indeed the region’s sports powerhouse when it won a gold-silver-bronze medal combination in Badminton. Malaysia was not to be left behind and won silver in the same event. Singapore, on the other hand, also won silver in Table Tennis. We then became the kulelat of the region.

You might of course say, “Hey, not fair! Brunei has not won anything yet and they are way richer than we are!” Okay, granting that being rich justifies proficiency in sports, it still does not fly. Brunei only sent two athletes this year and they withdrew even before the Olympics started. Of course they would not win anything. We then fell into the same bracket as Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and East Timor. Whatever! Do you know that almost 200 states and state-wannabes joined the Olympics this year? Barely half of them won medals! Only about 90 countries managed to get at least one, so we are not kulelat! So what if Ethiopia won four gold, one silver, and two bronze medals? So what if Georgia won a total of six even if Russia is waging war against them?

The pressure was then passed to the four remaining Filipino athletes: two Takwondo jins and two divers. Sheila Mae Perez is the best 3m springboard diver in Southeast Asia. Sad to say, the Olympics is not the Southeast Asian Games. With Chinese legends Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia in the mix, it would have been overtly optimistic to pin our hopes on the 22-year old diver. She eventually landed on the 23rd slot out of 30, just right under her two perennial Malaysian arch-rivals. She did not just lose her chance on an Olympic medal, but also her title as Southeast Asia’s diving queen.

Our two Taekwondo jins got their asses kicked. This event is also a favorite among Pinoy Olympic enthusiasts as a potential medal mine. Tshomlee Go’s loss on the very first round was very disappointing. His road to gold was fairly easier than that of Toni Rivero. With him losing, the pressure was then transferred to Rivero, who always seems to get one of the schedules near the end of the games, making her the last woman standing.

Four years ago in Athens, Marie Antoinette Rivero almost brought home a medal until she lost to a Greek Taekwondo jin who had no credentials under her name. If there ever was an Olympic cheating allegation that had credible basis, this would be it. The Greek won a silver medal and Rivero battled her way through the repechage, reached the bronze medal round, and then lost to South Korean Hwang Kyung Seon. In Beijing, the Greek Taekwondo jin lost on her very first round. Newsflash: “You are not in Athens anymore, biatch.” Too bad Rivero also lost on the first round to Croatia’s Sandra Saric, the reigning European Taekwondo champ. Hwang Kyung Seon took home the gold.

Ryan Rexel Fabriga’s dive was the grand finale of our fruitless quest to end our twelve-year Olympic medal drought. He competed in the 10m platform and only got as far as the 28th rank out of 30 competitors. Again, the event was dominated by the Chinese, but an upset by Australian Matthew Mitcham prevented them from a gold sweep, with them winning only seven out of eight.

Thailand won another gold and silver, bringing their medal tally to 2-2-0. Soon our athletes would be coming home. Maybe they already did. Our government officials would express their disappointment and promise better facilities and training for our athletes in preparation for the 2009 Vientiane SEA Games, 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, 2011 Jakarta SEA Games, and 2012 London Olympics. They always do that, do they not? They should just all resign or better yet, just die. I recommend that we just sing. Sabong or singing should be included in the Olympics. Go Charice Pempengco!

3 creature/s gave a damn:

Ena Alvarado said...

I am so so proud of you my dear cousin! All the best..and our love from your family here at Baguio City.

ihcahieh said...

Thanks Ate Reina! :)

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