“It’s worth a thousand golds!”
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino told Filipino reporters the morning after the Philippines, through its men’s basketball team now popularly called Gilas Pilipinas, won the Asian Games gold medal. This achievement took 61 years to accomplish but needed only two weeks to process.
Adding to this, head coach Tim Cone assembled his own version of a Navy Seal Team 6 when, just under a month ago, a crew of special forces couldn’t get a modest job done back in Manila in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
“It’s God’s will, prayers answered,” said Tolentino, who broke tradition by traveling to the luxurious Media Village inside the sprawling Asian Games Village to hold a press conference.
“But that’s actually five gold medals won all in all, counting Eumir’s [Felix Marcial] silver,” he added.
Marcial settled for silver in his first foray in boxing’s light heavyweight division, a heavier category than the middleweight class where he clinched bronze in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics two years ago.
Tolentino stayed virtually silent after EJ Obiena expectedly won the men’s pole vault title in an Asian Games record 5.90 meters. This marked the country’s first gold medal in these games that China has dominated from the very beginning.
The target was to secure four golds to match the haul in Jakarta and Palembang four years ago.
However, the bullseye became a blur in the distance when Margielyn Didal limped to a DNF in skateboarding, and a “underwomanned” golf team of Rianne Malixi and Lois Kaye Go couldn’t compete on par with the pros now allowed to play in the Asian Games.
“There are more chances; let’s see,” Tolentino said at that time, when the games were about 10 days old.
Then came that mini, mini streak in jiu-jitsu. Fluish and stuffed with cold medicine, Meggie Ochoa struck gold to validate her two world championship crowns, and Annie Ramirez followed suit to make it 3-2-12 (gold-silver-bronze) for the Philippines, positioning them at the bottom half but close to the median of the medal tally board.
Then came a 24-hour wait for that Philippines-Jordan men’s basketball gold medal match—Gilas 70, Jordan 60.
Bang! It was a “shot heard around the continent” and, most glaringly, across the entire Philippines.
The Asian Games men’s basketball gold medal is coming home to Manila after more than six decades.
“After 61 years… Thank you, Lord; we have once again proven that the Philippines is No. 1 in Asia,” Tolentino said.