Tag Archives: Hector Begeo

Philippine Athletics at the Olympic Games: 1924 – 2012

Athletics competition is simple. The athletes who run the fastest, throw the farthest, and leap the highest (and longest) win. The victors are determined by the stopwatch and the measuring tape; their triumphant efforts immortalized in the annals of history.

Back in my college athletics days, I found inspiration in the feats of past Olympic champions. In the subsequent years, I consumed as much Olympic- and athletics-related material as possible. I’ve written quite a lot of articles about those champions from foreign lands, but when it came to my countrymen, I knew next to nothing.

One can argue that most of the past Filipino Olympic performances in athletics are forgettable. Track & field only takes centerstage every four years, so who remembers those who came in, say, 49th place?

Hence, I’ve compiled a list of all Filipino track & field Olympians since the 1924 Amsterdam Olympics, the first time our country took part in the quadrennial event. To be an Olympian is an achievement in itself. And I’m quite certain that statistical results and overall rankings are inadequate measures of one’s struggle just to be able to compete at the world’s highest stage.

I hope that this list would prod other Filipinos to read up on our past sporting champions – to look beyond the numbers – since each and every name in this list has a unique story. This is my small contribution in honoring their efforts for Flag and Country.

Note: This is still a work in progress. Please message me for corrections.

Philippine Athletics at the Olympic Games

Sources:

  1. “Athletics at the Summer Olympics.” (Wikipedia, 26 August 2012). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_Summer_Olympics (27 August 2012)
  2. “Official Olympic Reports.” (LA84 Foundation, 2012). http://www.aafla.org/5va/reports_frmst.htm (27 August 2012)
  3. “Philippine Olympians: 1924 – 2004.” (Philippine Olympic Committee, 19 November 2004). http://www.olympic.ph/pdf/olympians.pdf (27 August 2012)
  4. “Philippines.” (Sports Reference, 2012). http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/countries/PHI/ (27 August 2012)
  5. Todor Krastev, “Sports Statistics – International Competition Archive.” (Sports Statistics, 26 August 2012). http://todor66.com/ (27 August 2012)

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:

mjuo1969

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