IT WAS in Barcelona 1992 when I first heard the line, “Perhaps this year will be the year we win our gold.”
It was the boxing event, and four years after Leopoldo Serrantes won the lone medal, a bronze, in Seoul. Hopes were high Roel Velasco could improve on it.
But Velasco ended up with a bronze. Four years later, his brother, Onyok, did one better in what’s still considered the country’s lost gold medal.
We ended up without a medal in the four Olympiads with Hidilyn Diaz breaking the drought in 2016 in the weightlifting event. Now, it’s another Olympic year, we have two Olympians already in the bag with more searching for Olympic spots this year. Boxing, thanks to the infighting that plagued the international federation, will have a series of qualifiers in a few months, and I hope one of our boxers will make it.
It was in Tokyo where we won our first Olympic silver medal--which ironically was due to a robbery also--and I hope it is in Tokyo also that we have another first.
Malacañang has promised a P100 million war chest for the Olympic preparation and I think that’s going to help big time, especially EJ Obenia and Carlos Yulo, two of our first Olympic qualifiers. Diaz is also expected to earn a spot and I hope we’ll have another one in taekwondo.
We actually won an Olympic gold back in 1988, when Arianne Cerdena topped bowling but it was only a demo sport, just like taekwondo. Though taekwondo would become a regular Olympic sport in 2000, bowling never got in. It was supposed to be one of the demo sports, but bowling never made the cut. It was initially included in the shortlist for Tokyo Olympics, but it was left out in the final list. Which is too bad considering we have world-class bowlers.
The big question, of course, is this: Would this year finally be the year that we win our Olympic gold? I sure hope so. And I think the Filipino who can deliver that first gold will be rich beyond her or his wildest dreams. If Diaz got a windfall beyond the incentives act for her silver in the 2016 Olympics, what do you think would a gold medalist get? They’ve accepted pros in boxing and for me, a gold medal is worth more than any other world title a Filipino boxer can win.
Would our boxing association go that route? I don’t know. I just hope more Filipinos will qualify for Tokyo and that these athletes will get the best preparation possible so we can finally nail that elusive gold.