I remember the hype going into the Beijing Olympics, that it would be the end of our gold medal drought. We only had one man in boxing, but Harry Tanamor was tipped to make it all the way to the finals. Even “Sports Illustrated” thought so.
But our hopes went crashing on the first day of competitions when our gold medal hope was lost in the Round-of-32.
We all know that our best chance to win an Olympic gold medal is in boxing, but unfortunately, we haven’t won a medal ever since the infamous robbery in Atlanta in 1996, when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco went home with a silver medal when he should have gotten the gold. It was at the time that I got really interested in sports and scoured the back pages regularly.
I remember analysts saying that Pinoy boxers would have better chances if they don’t meet any Cubans. But, four years later in Sydney all four boxers—Larry Semillano, Romeo Brin, Danilo and Arlan Lerio—all lost, with only Arlan making it to the round-of-16. It was the same story in Athens 2004, Brin, Christopher Camat, Violito Payla—bowed out. The biggest surprise in Athens was Mary Antoinette Rivero, when she made it all the way to the semifinals.
We had two forgettable Olympics after that, with Hidilyn Diaz becoming the only bright spot in Rio 2016. But it seems we can begin to hope again. Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam recently earned their slots for Tokyo, joining Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno. Marcial, who has since turned pro in 2020, has long been touted as our best hope for an Olympic gold. But ever since Tanamor in 2008, I’ve long stopped paying attention to that.
Four shots in boxing, the first time since we had four since Athens. But unlike Athens, it’s not only in boxing that we have a real chance. Carlos Yulo, a world champion in gymnastics, is also touted as a potential medalist, while EJ Obiena hogged the headlines a couple of weeks ago with his success in pole vault.
And of course, there is Diaz, who is hoping for another shot in the Olympics and will be aiming for the gold medal.
We haven’t had reason to celebrate as a nation lately, but I hope that will change in the middle of this year when the whole world gets together for the Olympic games.