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.
TRACK AND FIELD
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).