Category Archives: 1992 Barcelona Olympics

Glory Days

The ageless Emerson Obiena uploaded an old photo to his Facebook account a while back. Judging from the designs of the Philippine team uniform, I figured that the picture was taken sometime during the early to mid-1990’s.

Photo from Emerson Obiena

Coach Emer’s subtitles confirmed my hypothesis. The bespectacled Filipino-Chinese athlete on the left is non-other than Coach Emer himself, the founder of the Philippine Pole Vault Club and a many-time international campaigner for the Philippines. On the rightmost side of the photo is Bruce Ventura, the Philippine national record holder for the shot put at 15.83m. Then Senator Joey Lina is at the center, beside the spunky-looking Edward Lasquette, the pole vault national record holder at 5.00m.

Obiena is the only holdover from that by-gone era. In his late 30’s, the father of two is still the best Filipino pole vaulter. Coach Emer is a two-time SEA Games Pole Vault silver medalist (1993 and 1999). He has a personal best of 4.95m, set during the 1999 National Open.

Obiena’s 4.93m clearance (Taipei, 2008)

The Herculean Bruce Ventura won silver in the shot during the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore. The Filipino-American Lasquette, who set the now 18-year old Philippine record in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, is a three-time SEA Games champion (1991, 1993 and 1995).

Filipino SEA Games Medalists since 1991

During the early years of my track days, I could barely find write-ups about the Gintong Alay days. I was fortunate to stumble upon an old book, Philippine Sports Greats, which featured a lengthy piece on the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics High Jump bronze medalist, Simeon Toribio. Articles about the resurgence of Philippine athletics during the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s are also hard to come by. Looking for actual clips of those storied races online is an impossibility! And don’t expect our sensationalist TV networks to air replays of past Philippine track & field campaigns.

Hence, I had to make do with meager competition results available in the world wide web, taking pride in the fact that a handful of my compatriots had distinguished themselves in international competition. Yell Carreon’s insightful interviews with Hector Begeo and John Lozada and Zytrexx’s nostalgic historical piece on Toribio and Miguel White are rare informative examples.

It’s quite unfortunate how Filipinos today hardly even remember the sporting heroes of our past. Aside from big names like Lydia de Vega-Mercado and Elma Muros-Posadas, most of our local athletics greats have been almost forgotten by the very people – the very country – they fought so hard for.

If archived footage or even detailed write-ups somehow find its way into the mainstream, perhaps a new generation of Filipino athletes – not just track & field athletes – will be inspired by those feats of greatness to do better than their forebears. Indeed, Filipino sports has so much more to offer.

Video credit:


Carl Lewis – Break It Up

The legendary Carl Lewis is one of the most bemedalled track & field athletes in Olympic history. Lewis won a staggering 9 golds and 1 silver over four Olympics. He was a multi-talented athlete, excelling in both the sprints and the long jump, like Jesse Owens before him. Lewis’ last Olympic Gold came at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he unexpectedly grabbed 1st place as a 35-year old!

Despite his on-track greatness, Lewis seems to have been a magnet for controversy – or just plain ass flamboyance that borders the absurd.

This has got to be the funniest music video ever made by an Olympic gold medallist!

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Dorando Pietri, Derek Redmond and the Olympic Ideal

I used to spend hours at the Rizal Library poring over books about the Olympics. At that time, I was fresh from high school, wilting under the stronger competition in the senior ranks. I was badly in need of inspiration, and I found it in those glossy, reference books.

I’ve learned to appreciate the exploits of past Olympic champions, their feats of strength and heroism immortalized in print. I can go on for hours just talking about Harrison Dillard’s bittersweet experience in the 1948 London Olympics, the unique rivalry between Rafer Johnson and C.K. Yang and Shun Fujimoto’s heroic self-sacrifice at the gymnastics team event in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

While reading Jazzrunner’s post about cheating in the distance events, I recalled the amusing story of Dorando Pietri – who won the 1908 London Olympics marathon.  The remarkably hot London weather weakened Pietri, as he succumbed to “exhaustion and dehydration.” He was disqualified, however, since he received assistance from various umpires when he fell four times en route to the finish line.

Pietri was not a cheater, of course. He was just a poor victim of the heat and some overly exuberant umpires.

Pietri became an international celebrity afterward, as public sympathy pored in.

Receiving outside assistance of any kind is prohibited under IAAF rule 144. Following this line of thought, Derek Redmond (of Celebrate Humanity fame) should have been disqualified as well since he finished his semi-final with the help of father! The way Redmond hobbled to the finish line, with his father helping him throughout, embodied the Olympic ideal. Mundane competition rules were overshadowed by such gallantry.

Indeed, the spirit of the Olympics goes beyond winning.

Unless as you’re a hardcore track & field fan, the winner of the 400m dash in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics would probably elude you, much less the 1908 London Olympics Marathon event. Characters like Pietri and Redmond, despite not winning the gold, live on – immortalized in the annals of Olympic history.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”- Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympic Games

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