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Thursday, August 19, 2004
"They chased their dreams and did the country proud. So, what happened to these Filipino athletes after the Olympic dust settled?"

(abstracted from Filipinas Magazine by: Ibarra Pascua)

David Nepomuceno, a sprinter and member of the U.S. navy was the Philippines first ever Olympic representative when he competed in the 1924 Paris Olympiad. He came home eompty handed. The first Filipino athlete to win a medal in the Olympics was Teofilo Yldefonso, a swimmer from Piddig , Ilocos Norte.

Yldefonso, is the only Filipino who has won two Olympic medals. He bagged the bronze medals in the 200 meter breast stroke events at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Yldefonso was known as the "Ilocano Shark"His fastest time in the 200 meter breaststroke was 2 minutes and 48.4 seconds.

The year 1932 was a banner one for the Philippines as aside from Yldefonso, two other Filipino brought home bronze medals. High jumper Semeon Toribio and bantamweight boxer Jose "Cely" Villanueva also came home to a hero's welcome. Toribio, who hails from Zamboanga, was considered the "Filipino Field Athlete of the Half Century"and "Asia's Best Athlete" for winning gold medals in the high jump event in the Far Eastern Olympics in 1921, 1923, 1927, 1930 and 1934 aside from his Olympics bronze medal. In 1930, Toribio was awarded the Helms World Trophy for being Asia's greatest athlete. He became a lawyer and a congressman representing Bohol province where later settled. A hospital in Bohol is named after him.

Cely Villanueva became a world class boxing trainer.Aside from training his son, Anthony, he also helped the legendary Gabriel "Flash" Elorde in the ring exploits. The younger Villanueva could have fought on in the next Olympics to chase the golden dream, but saw his amateur status stripped when he made a movie.

In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Miguel White also won a bronze in the 400 meter hurdles event. After that, came a long drought as Filipino athletes struggled to keep abreast with the competition. White, like Yldefonso was killed during the WWII.

The next Olympic medal for the Filipinos would not come until 28 years later with featherweight boxer Anthony Villanueva settling for the silver medal when the Games were celebrated in Tokyo. Villanueva actually improved on the feat of his father who served as his trainer. He could have won the elusive gold but suffered a controversial decision to Russain Stanislav Stephaskin.

From there onwards, only Filipino boxers would enjoy a measure of success in the Olympics. After another 24 years, flyweight Leopoldo Serrantes would win a bronze in the 1988 Seoul Olympiad. Four years later, light flyweight Roel Velasco bagged yet another bronze in Barcelnoa. In 1996 Roel's younger brother light flyweight Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco, the country its second silver medal in the Atlanta Olympics on another controversial loss to Bulgarian Daniel Bokilov.

Actually, Filipino athletes have also won two other bronze medals and a gold. However, the sheen of these medals slightly pale in comparison to the rest because they were won in dangerous events.

Bantamweight Stephen Fernandez and feater weight Bea Lucero won bronze medals in taekwondo during the 1992 staging of the Olympics in Barcelona. However, taekwondo was a demonstration sport back then.

Earlier, bowler Arianne Cerdena captured a gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But again, bowling was just a demonstration sport and the medal did not count in the final tally.

Cerdena settled down and now has a family. Lucero, who actually started out as a gymnast before shifting to taekwondo,became a broadcast journalist and then married Jean Lhuillier who is now involved in the local basketball scene helping the national cage squad financially.

In recent memory, there are the likes of track queen Lydia de Vega-Mercado and swimmers Christine Jacob and Eric Buhain worth mentioning.

In the Philippines where basketball is considered the number one pastime, there are demigods like Ambrosio Padilla, Carlos Loyzaga, Robert Jaworski and Freddie Webb among others who was a member of the Philippine team that almost won a bronze in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Despite winning four of five games, the Philippines was questionably relegated to the fifth place. Padilla later became a senator. Among the members of that team were Charles Borck, Jacinto Ciria-Cruz, Franco Marquicias, Primitivo Martinez, Amador Obordo, Bibiano Ouano, John Worrell, Jesus Marzan and Fortunato Yambao.

Likewise, joining show business was Onyok Velasco who tunred to comedy films and sitcoms after exploits in Atlanta.

Jaworski, who played for the Philippine team in the 1968 Olympiad, is also known as the "Living Legend" of Philippine basketball. He sought a second term in the senate but lost in the May elections. Webb, on the other hand, became councilor of Pasay and later became a senator. He played for the Philippine team during the 1972 Munich Games.

Loyzaga, the "Gret Difference", saw action in the Olympics twice, in Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne(1856). After a colorful basketball career, Loyzaga immigrated to Australia. Two of his sons, Chito and Joey, followed his footsteps as basketball players. Chito later played for the RP team that settled for silver during the 1990 Bangkok Asian games.

De Vega once Asia's Sprint Queen, competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where she clocked 11.97 in the 100 meter dash and 25.10 in the 200 meter dash. She would rule the Asia level of the world. She later married an engineer and then became a councilor in Meycauayan, Bulacan. Currently, she is studying two separate offers to teach in Singapore and this was why she did not vie for re-election.

Jacob and Buhain were the toast of the swimming community back in 1988 when they competed in the Seoul Olympics. The best Jacob could do was finish in a tie for 25th and 37th place in the 200 meter freestyle event when she sumitted a time of 2:12.17 Jacob also became a movie personality co-hosting the noontime show "Eat Bulaga" and doing several comedy films with Vic Sotto. She is now married with children.

Aside from seeing action in Seoul, Buhain also took part in the Barcelona Games. Buhain competed in the 100 meter and 200 meter butterfly and the 50 meter and 200 meter freestyle events. He is currently the chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission.
posted by infraternam meam @ 4:24 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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