19 outstanding athletes from twelve different disciplines are hell-bent to give the Philippines its first Olympic gold medal.
If you think about it, 19 is a tough number to work with. Basketball has twelve men. Baseball has 24 players. Even field hockey, a sport I rarely see, has 16 players.
With that said, it is said that we have the best chance to claim the gold medal right now. Inasmuch as the earth is in a bad shape at the moment, this could be our best chance to strike gold.
I am now going to rank the sports with the best chance to claim the gold medal.
11 | SHOOTING | JAYSON VALDEZ (MEN’S 10M AIR RIFLE)
Shooting is a sport that we should be dominating. The thing about this sport though is that it is not as accessible as basketball or even boxing and running. I mean, one could just fight in a streetball game with the participants either running the hell out of the scene or trying to beat his opponent senseless. In shooting, one needs to have a gun… a shitload of moolah to nail incoming flying plates. I am not dissing the sport but it is what it is. The fact that Valdez has a cap to secure a spot and not a direct invite makes his gold medal chances slim to none.
10 | SWIMMING | LUKE GEBBIE (MEN’S FREESTYLE) AND REMEDY RULE (WOMEN’S BUTTERFLY)
Swimming is never our strong suit. Even in the regional competitions, we tend to have respectable finishes… but not in the levels of Akiko Thomson, Ryan Papa, and Eric Buhain. It’s nice to think that Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule could outlast the muscle-clad athletes of the United States, Australia, Germany, most European countries, and the Far East but while we have a couple of swimming medals courtesy of Teofilo Yldefonso, it’s hard to believe that we could win against those juggernauts.
9 | TAEKWONDO | KURT BARBOSA (MEN’S 58KG)
The Philippines has had success in the world of combat sports but apart from the SEA Games, Olympic medals have escaped the country in taekwondo. Barbosa is looking to break the funk – with a 2019 SEA Games gold medal finish as motivation. With that said, Barbosa is going to face bigger and tougher opponents at his division and it’s not going to help his cause that Barbosa’s first opponent in the knockout stages is a Korean who won the World Taekwondo Championships in 2019.
8 | JUDO | KIYOMI WATANABE (WOMEN’S 63KG)
From 2011 to 2019, Watanabe has competed and won a medal for the country in the SEA Games. She nailed a bronze in 2011 and gold medals galore thereafter. Definitely, the right person is representing the Philippines in judo as she also became the first person to score a silver medal for the Philippines in the event. With that said, Judo will be an uphill climb as the sport favors the originators (Japan has had 39 gold medals since 1964) as well as other Far Eastern countries and some European countries.
7 | ROWING | CRIS NIEVAREZ (MEN’S SINGLE SCULLS)
Not since Benjamin Tolentino, Jr. has the country produced a participant in the sport of rowing. The former sprinter qualified for the quarterfinals in men’s single sculls and I think it’s nice that there is an outside chance of him getting a podium spot. With that said, Nievarez needs to double his efforts because we are never really known to score big in this sport. Dragon boat… yes but a one-man show… maybe in the SEA Games.
6 | ATHLETICS | KRISTINA MARIE KNOTT (WOMEN’S 200M) AND EJ OBIENA (MEN’S POLE VAULT)
Kristina Knott is a revelation in the 2019 SEA Games as she ended the games with a two-gold and two-silver medal haul. The 25-year-old Fil-Am has also battled with the track stars across the globe… so exposure isn’t as dire as a situation. With that said, she’s going to face a tough crew of genetic anomalies… which is also the problem of EJ Obiena. As far as momentum goes though, the pole vaulter gained a ton of promise after claiming gold medal wins at the 2019 Asian Championships, the 2019 Summer Universiade in Naples, and in the 2019 SEA Games.
5 | BOXING | CARLO PAALAM (MEN’S FLYWEIGHT), EUMIR MARCIAL (MEN’S MIDDLEWEIGHT), IRISH MAGNO (WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT), AND NESTHY PETECIO (WOMEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT)
The sport scored four participants. Eumir Marcial scored an outright spot in the Round of 16 while the rest are going to go to the normal route by besting five supposed “easy targets”. Boxing has always been good to the Philippines with five of the nine medals coming from the sport – including two silvers from featherweight Anthony Villanueva in 1964 and light flyweight Onyok Velasco in 1996. With that said, boxing is also a politically motivated battle. Aside from the fighter, the boxer also needs to check in with the judges. At the moment, the best chance amongst the four comes with Nesthy Petecio – the AIBA World Boxing Championships gold medal winner. Irish Magno’s best finish came in the 2019 SEA Games with silver while Paalam and Marcial scored gold medal finishes in the SEA Games.
4 | MARGIELYN DIDAL (WOMEN’S STREET)
Ranked 17th in the world, Margielyn Didal is seen as one of the top names in the world of women’s street skate. She could have ranked higher but with the current landscape, she failed to compete in a couple of events. With that said, the first Filipino to compete in the X-Games is a force to be reckoned with. For starters, she won the gold medal in the 2018 SEA Games and virtually toyed with the competition en route to two gold medals in the 2019 SEA Games. In 2020, Didal is named Asia’s Skater of the Year. She's definitely going to excite the crowd and hopefully a gold medal for her insane devil-may-care moves.
3 | GOLF | JUVIC PAGUNSAN (MEN’S DIVISION) AND BIANCA PAGDANGANAN AND YUKA SASO (WOMEN’S DIVISION)
The return of golf in the 2010s is a good thing for Filipinos in search of Olympic gold because, unlike most events, the sport requires skills that could do away with the physical handicaps. Yuka Saso is the first Filipina to win the 2021 US Women’s Open. The 19-year-old phenom is basically the best bet amongst the three-person contingent. With two LPGA of Japan Tour wins, she could be familiar with the greens and that should be an advantage. With that said, Pagdanganan could be a wildcard in the event. Pagunsan however, could be a potential darkhorse with the veteran also familiar with the Japanese golf courses.
2 | GYMNASTICS | CARLOS YULO (ALL-AROUND)
Oh, man. Who would have thought that the Philippines would be riding high on a sport we never thought we could be awesome in. As it stands, we still aren’t… except that we have a wunderkind in the form of Caloy Yulo. The dude got his spot by scoring a gold medal in the 2019 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships held in Stuttgart, Germany (becoming the first Filipino to win the event). Yulo would then have two gold and five silver medals in the 2019 SEA Games. And the thing about Yulo is that he perfected his craft in Japan (placing first at 2019 All-Japan Senior Championships). Combining his familiarity with the terrain with his insane talent, Yulo is THE favorite to win the gold medal.
1 | WEIGHTLIFTING | HIDILYN DIAZ (WOMEN’S 55KG) AND ELREEN ANDO (WOMEN’S 64KG)
Elreen Ando is no pushover. She just missed the gold medal in the 2019 SEA Games and she also claimed a silver medal in the 2020 Asian Weightlifting Championships.
With that said, all eyes will be locked on Hidilyn Diaz. She is going to the Olympics with the memory of her silver medal finish in the 2016 edition. In fact, Anthony Villanueva and Onyok Velasco never returned to the delegation after claiming a silver finish which means her presence alone has unlocked history. With that said, Hidilyn is out to claim a gold medal. She’s already 30 but she is still a big-time force in the sport. Before the pandemic struck, Diaz participated and won at the 2020 World Cup held in Rome, Italy. In between Olympic events, she became the first Filipino weightlifter to win gold in the Asian Games (held in 2018), scored a couple of bronze finishes in the World Championships, and got a silver in the 2019 Asian Championship before scoring a gold medal in the 2019 SEA Games.
Do you agree with my rankings? Well, the important thing is the country has a chance to score a multitude of medals. We root for the athletes to do their best and with the right amount of talent and luck, we hope they could secure the country’s first Olympic gold medal.