Tag Archives: Beijing Olympics 2008

Galing Pinoys: Filipino Athletes Going for Gold in Olympics

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
WHEN pound-4-pound boxing great Manny Pacquiao waves the Philippine flag to the sound of Lupang Hinirang at the Olympics opening ceremony, he’ll be introducing the Philippines best athletes to the world.

For the next three weeks all eyes will be on Beijing, China as it host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. There are 15 athletes from the Philippines competing in the world’s grandest stage against the best the world has to offer.

Despite the fact that no Philippine athlete in 80 years has ever won Olympic gold, it’s not going to dissuade any of this year’s representatives from trying. As an incentive, it’s been reported that the Philippine government along with business leaders and other groups has offered a 15 million pesos ($340,000) cash prize to any Philippine Olympic athlete who receives a gold medal.

The last time the Philippines won a medal was in the Atlanta games in 1996. Light flyweight Mansueto Velasco captured the silver medal in boxing.

In total, the Philippines have won two silver and seven bronzes for a total of nine Olympic medals in its history. By far, the Philippines best sport is boxing, capturing five of its nine medals.

This year, the country’s best chance of a gold medal lies in the feats of these stellar athletes.

With the cash prize so lucrative and a chance for Olympic glory high, here is a list and brief bio of the Pinoy athletes going for gold in their respective event:


Mark Javier: This is the first Olympic games for the 27-year-old from Dumaguete City, Philippines. He earned an Olympic berth after placing first in the Asian Continental competition in Xian, China. He’s a 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist and won a bronze medal in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand.


Harry Tañamor: Tañamor is the country’s best chance for an Olympic medal perhaps even a gold, according to Sports Illustrated Olympic edition. This is Tañamor’s second Olympic berth. The 29-year-old southpaw boxer from Zamboanga City is competing in the Light Flyweight (48 kg) division. He placed ninth in the 2004 Olympics.


Rexel Ryan Fabriga: Fabriga is a 23-year-old diver from Zamboanga City. He qualified for the Beijing, Olympics after placing fourth in the 10-meter platform event at the FINA Diving World Cup competition in China. He’s a former SEA game gold medalist at the 10-meter platform event.

Sheila Mae Perez: This is the third time Perez has qualified for the Olympics. After placing 32nd in the 2000 Australia games, she qualified but did not compete in the 2004 Athens Olympics. She’s won a gold and a silver medal in the 2007 SEA games and is considered by many as one of the best divers in Southeast Asia.


Ryan Arabejo: The 19-year-old swimmer from Makati City overcame an asthmatic condition early in his life to become an Olympic athlete. Arabejo holds the Philippine record in the 400-meter freestyle (3:58.51) and the 50m backstroke (28.29). Arabejo earned a slot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by finishing six seconds faster than the Olympic qualifying standard time of 15:45.12, according an Inquirer.net report.

Daniel Coakley: Coakley is a 19-year-old FilAm hailing from Hawaii. He holds the Philippine Record in the 50m freestyle (23.08 seconds) and the SEA Games Record in the same event (22.80 sec.). It’s been reported that Coakley is the grand nephew of the late Teofilo Yldefonso, who is considered by many as the greatest Philippine swimmer. Yldefonso won the Philippines first Olympic medal (bronze) in the 200m-breaststroke event at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.

Miguel Molina: This is the second Olympic berth for the former FilAm Cal Berkeley graduate. Molina is competing in the men’s 200m breaststroke and men’s 200m individual Medley. During the last Olympic, he posted a 2:05.28 time in the 200m individual medley.

Christel Simms: Simms is a 17-year-old FilAm also from Hawaii. Born and raised in the US, she almost did not have a chance to represent the Philippines but the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) upheld her petition to represent her parent’s home country. She qualified for the Olympics after posting 57.17 seconds, the qualifying standard for the 100m freestyle swimming events, at the USA Junior National Swimming Championships.

J.B. Walsh: The 22-year-old University of Florida graduate is another FilAm swimmer competing for the Philippines in his second straight Olympics. In Athens, he finished 37th in the 200m butterfly. He’ll be hoping to do better this time around when he competes in that same event. He’s also the Philippine record holder clocking 2:00.42.


Tshomlee Go: Besides Tañamor, the 27-year-old Go is also considered by many as one of the country’s best contenders for a gold medal in the Beijing Olympic games. The Taekwando jin made it to the Beijing Games via the World qualifying after beating six opponents in the 58-kg (127-pounds), the first Olympic weight category, according to the Inquirer.net report. It is Go’s second Olympic games. He competed in Athens but fell in the preliminary rounds.

Mary Antoinette Rivero: Rivero is also another gold medal hopeful. The 20-year-old student at Ateneo de Manila University nearly captured a silver medal four years ago in Athens. In the semifinals, she faced off against Greece’s Elizavet Mystakidou losing a close 2-3 decision. A win would have guaranteed Rivero a silver medal and a shot at gold. She got neither and lost the bronze medal match.


Henry Dagmil: The 27-year-old South Cotabato resident will compete in the long jump. He holds the Philippine long jump record at 7.99 meters. He’s a 2007 SEA games gold medalist.

Marestella Torres: Torres is a 27-year-old competing in the women’s long jump. She captured the gold medal at the 2005 SEA and 2007 SEA Games. The Philippine Track and Field Association (PATAFA) selected Torres to represent the country at the Beijing Games.


Eric Ang: At 37-years-old, Ang is the oldest athlete representing the Philippines. He earned a wildcard berth after posting convincing performances in the trap events of two international competitions, according to GMA-7.


Heidilyn Diaz: The 17-year-old Diaz is the youngest competitor for the Philippines. The Zamboanga City resident is also the first Filipino to compete in a weightlifting event. She earned a wild-card slot from the International Weightlifting Federation. She’ll compete in the 58-kilogram class (127 pounds).



Filed under Feature, Galing Pinoy

Natalie Coughlin: Like Fish to Olympic Waters

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
There are a few celebrities in sports whose presence at the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing is both widely and wildly anticipated. Natalie Coughlin is one of them.

Her path to Olympic fame and glory began when she was just a young kid swimming in her parents’ backyard pool. Her dad Jim, a Vallejo police officer and mom Zennie, a Kaiser paralegal, also enrolled Natalie and her sister Megan in swimming classes.

This path however was not paved with the proverbial gold. She was a swimming prodigy at 15, and at the age of 17, she missed, by two seconds, the last spot for the swim team then, which was set to compete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Instead of sulking, Natalie began her rehabilitation plan and trained harder than usual. Four short years later, she reaped her rewards.

Natalie was propelled to superstardom when she won five medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Then 21 years old, she won golds in the 100-meter backstroke and the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, silvers in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays and a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle.

In 2006, Natalie wrote a book with Sports Illustrated’s Michael Silver entitled, Golden Girl: How Natalie Coughlin Fought Back, Challenged Conventional Wisdom, and Became America’s Olympic Champion.

A psychology graduate from UC Berkeley, Coughlin (pronounced cog-lin) will be one of 10,500 athletes to compete in 302 events in 28 sports during the Olympics.

In an exclusive interview with the Asian Journal, Natalie shared her training regimen, her lola’s chicken adobo and her wish to learn Tagalog in the future.

Asked to describe herself in three words, Natalie responded: “Perfectionist, realist, stubborn.”

Here are excerpts from the interview.

Asian Journal (AJ): How is your training regimen these days? Do you have a pre-competition routine?

Natalie Coughlin (NC): My daily routine is really no different than it usually is. I still maintain my swimming, weights, and Pilates schedule. Since I’m in training camp, there is a lot more rest time (a.k.a. nothing to do). My pre-competition routine is always the same and it involves a lot of stretching and a little bit of swimming.

AJ: You are looked upon as a role model by the youth, what is your message to them?

NC: Be active! Get involved in some sort of sport or other activity and have fun with it. H2O Audio’s waterproof mp3 case is a way to make sports more fun by allowing you to swim, surf or run while listening to your favorite music.

(Editor’s Note: Natalie is one of the endorsers of H20 Audio, the leading brand of waterproof and ruggedized sports accessories. She is also the company’s swim gear design and development advisor.)

AJ: Not a lot of people know that you have Filipino blood. How many percent Filipino are you?

NC: I’m a quarter-Filipino.

AJ: Did you grow up eating Filipino food? Do you still eat Filipino food? What are your favorites?

NC: Yes, I grew up eating a lot of Filipino food. My family blends Filipino food and American food at all of our gatherings.  Halo-halo is one of my favorite treats. And I’m sure everyone says this, but my grandma’s Chicken Adobo is by far the best I have ever tasted.

AJ: Have you been to the Philippines?

NC: Unfortunately I haven’t been there yet. My family is from Cavite.

AJ: Did your lola (grandmother) teach you how to speak tagalog?

NC: Although my family speaks Tagalog amongst themselves, I was never taught. I am using a computer program called Rosetta Stone that is helping me learn Tagalog…maybe now I’ll know what my family is saying about me!

AJ: How is your diet like these days? What are your favorite foods?

NC: I eat a lot of organic fruits and vegetables. I try to fill my plate mostly with vegetables in a variety of different colors. My favorite foods are Vietnamese and Peruvian.

AJ: What is the best thing about swimming?

NC: I love being in the sun and in the fresh air. I am passionate about swimming and thrilled to have the opportunity to help people throughout the swimming community experience the fun of listening to quality music while enjoying a swim or participating in other water sports.

AJ: What is your favorite event? How many events will you be competing in?

NC: My favorite event is probably the 100 back. I will compete in up to six events in Beijing, including relays. My individual events are the 100 back, 200 IM and 100 free.

(Editor’s Note: Natalie is the American record-holder in four events on the Olympic schedule.)

AJ: You now lead the 58 club, how did you prepare for that?

NC: Lots of hard training!

(Natalie broke the 59-second mark with a time of 58.97 seconds. She was also the first woman to break the one minute mark in the 100-meter backstroke.)

AJ: What do you do when you are not swimming?

NC: I really enjoy cooking and eating.

AJ: What are your other favorite sports?

NC: I enjoy watching track & field, I personally like to surf and run for cross-training.

AJ: Who was your role model as a child growing up? Has that changed?

NC: I didn’t really have any specific role models. However, I did enjoy watching Summer Sanders and Janet Evans.

AJ: What’s your favorite song to listen to underwater?

NC:  Any Jack Johnson song.

AJ: What is the best part about swimming with music?

NC: It puts me in tune with both the music and the water.

AJ: What’s your advice to the next generation of world record swimmers?

NC: Don’t take anything too seriously.

AJ: If you weren’t an Olympic swimmer what would you be?

NC:  A professional dancer but I have no experience.

(Special thanks to Tom Harvey of H20 Audio for facilitating the interview. For more information about the Natalie Coughlin Signature Series, visit http://www.h2oaudio.com/)


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Filed under FilAm News, Galing Pinoy