The Philippines finally struck gold yesterday, 10 days after the opening of the Asian Games. It came from the most unlikely source, BMX biking, courtesy of Daniel Caluag, a London Olympics entry.
Whether this will signal a late onslaught by the bedraggled Philippine team will be known in a few days as boxing, taekwondo and karate vie for medals even as the door is slowly closing on the country’s gold medal hunt.
Sports officials must be trembling in their boots, thinking of how to explain to the Filipino people how a country of 100 million can fail so miserably despite the millions of pesos at their disposal for athletic development.
They are praying that boxing, maligned and misunderstood, will save the day and their necks, too, from what surely will be a severe excoriation should the athletes fail to deliver at least four gold medals.
But after today’s onslaught in the boxing ring where only Charly Suarez has advanced to the finals tomorrow, while three others – Mark Anthony Barriga, Mario Fernandez and Wilfredo Lopez – all settled for the bronze, our sports official are really now in trouble.
Both Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco Jr. and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Ricardo Garcia have promised to surpass the four golds won in Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
But with only three days left before the Asian Games come to a close in Incheon, South Korea, the Philippines is still 7th among all Southeast Asian countries.
With its tally of 1 gold, two silvers and 9 bronzes (as of 8 p.m. today), it is 22nd among 45 countries competing.
Among Southeast Asian nations, Thailand leads the pack with a tally of 9-7-27 and is at 10th place in the overall leader board followed by Singapore (14th, 5-6-11), Malaysiat (15th, 4-14-11), Indonesia (16th, 4-5-11), Myanmar (20th, 2-1-1) and Vietnam (21st, 1-10-24).
In the 2010 Guangzhou Games, the Philippines went home with 3-4-9 and if boxing gets a gold while taekwondo and karate strike hard, and that is a big if, it has a chance to surpass the previous tally.
Still, the Philippines has missed out on a lot of opportunities.
Take swimming for instance.
Swimming offered a total of 38 golds and not one Filipino managed to make it to the medal podium.
Athletics dangled 47 but not one medal was won.
Also big letdowns were bowling (12), a source of pride through the years even in the world stage, shooting (44) and wushu (15) even if it came up with two silvers and one bronze.
If Philippines get’s stuck at 1 gold at the end of the game, this year will become the third worst showing of Team Philippines in the history of Asian Games.
Philippines’ worst was in 1974 Asian Games in Tehran where we went home with zero gold, 2 silver and 11 bronze. Then in 1990 Asian Games in Tokyo, Team Philippines only 1 gold, 2 silver and 7 bronze medals.
In Bangkok Asian Games year 1998, Philippines went home with 1 gold, 5 silver and 12 bronze; while 1 gold, 9 silver and 12 bronze in 1970 Asian Games, also in Bangkok!