WITH the way things are going, the Tokyo Olympics is going to be the first Olympiad where we won’t be pinning our medal hope on one athlete.
EJ Obenia reminded us that when he won the gold medal in the ISTAF Indoors in Berlin last Feb. 5, 2021, resetting his own Philippine indoor record in the process. The first Pinoy to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics vaulted 5.80 meters, beating Torben Blech, who needed two attempts to jump 5.8 meters and Oleg Zernikel (5.72 meters.)
Sure, his personal best is way off the Olympic mark but as early as two years ago, when he qualified for Tokyo, the current gold medalist, Thiago Silva, in the competition saw him as a threat. At least, his trainer did.
James Lafferty, who trains Obenia, relayed what Thiago Silva’s trainer told him. “My biggest worry is this young stud Obiena. If he ever gets support, he will be unstoppable. I worry if he gets the backing he needs, he will own the gold medal for the next several Olympics.”
If it was a ploy to get Obenia the support he needs it worked because since then, Obenia has been training non-stop.
In previous Olympics, we’ve all pinned our hopes on our boxers and they’ve all disappointed us one after the other. The last one to win a medal was a generation ago, Mansueto Velasco in Atlanta, while Harry Tanamor, touted as a potential gold medalist, bombed out early in the Beijing Olympics.
Sure, Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno are expected to carry our boxing hopes in the Olympics but Obenia and gymnast Carlos Yulo will also be there to show that the Philippines is no longer a one-sport pony in the Olympiad.
Aside from the four, there’s Hidilyn Diaz, the 2016 silver medalist; Kiyomi Watanabe; Margielyn Didal; Junna Tsukii; and Pauline Lopez who are all knocking on Tokyo’s doors. If they all qualify, they all have a chance to win a medal.
So the chances of ending our gold medal drought in Tokyo are high. I was worried a few weeks ago when there were rumors of the games not pushing through but I’m glad that’s no longer the case.
Diaz got a windfall from both the government and private sector when she won a silver medal in 2016, our first Olympic medal since Velasco’s 20 years prior and I’m sure whoever wins the country’s first gold will be set for life. I just hope we’ll find out soon in the next few months.