Coming off a high from the 30th Southeast Asian Games two years ago that saw the country win a historic 149 golds, the morale of Filipino athletes were at an all-time high.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and it stopped the momentum the country was gaining.
But 19 brave men and women still pushed through, qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That too, however, was hampered by a delay — again, due to the pandemic.
The postponement of the Games resulted in the country’s sporting stakeholders asking for help.
And many stepped up in doing so.
“A few months after the onset of the pandemic, with the drastic cut in our cash inflow due to the lockdown affecting PAGCOR and PCSO, we sadly had to cut allowances of our national team by half, promising to give back the remaining half once remittances improve,” read the statement of the Philippine Sports Commission, signed by Chairman Butch Ramirez; commissioners Arnold Agustin, Celia Kiram, Charles Maxey, and Ramon Fernandez; executive director Atty. Guillermo Iroy; deputies Merita Ibay and Manuel Bitog; and chief of staff Marc Velasco.
“This is where true Bayanihan spirit showed its magic, with partners from the Executive level, Senate, Congress, and the private sector came in to help us sustain support for the national team, especially for the preparation of our Olympians and those still vying for an Olympic ticket.”
Besides the national government, also joining hands in helping fund the training of the athletes were the private and public sectors.
“Gratitude needs to be given to the biggest contributor of support, the Filipino people.
“Your taxes funded our athletes along the course of their athletic journey. More than this, your trust, prayers and enthusiasm provided our athletes with more determination and motivation to come home winners and make us all proud,” the letter continued.
The result was a magical run in Tokyo.
The Philippines finished with its most medals in the Olympiad, with four podium finishers. It’s the biggest Philippine haul since 1932.
Hidilyn Diaz brought home the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. She topped the women’s minus-55kg category in weightlifting.
Boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam took home silver in the women’s featherweight and men’s flyweight divisions, respectively. Meanwhile, Eumir Marcial placed third in the men’s middleweight class.
Because of their 1-2-1 campaign, the Philippines knocked off Thailand which had been dominating the region for the last four Olympic cycles. It also finished in 50th place — the highest ranking of the country since the 1988 Games in Seoul.
“Of course, at the center of this glorious moment are our athletes. You all deserve our gratitude, admiration, and respect. We thank those who worked to qualify, those who fought with golden determination as much as those who in the end brought us pride and honor with their victories,” the statement expressed.
“We know the sacrifices and hardship you all had to endure in training and preparation. We know the price you had to pay to be on that road towards your dream, our dream. We are sure that your achievements have caught the attention, fired up the imagination, and inspired many of our youth to pursue sports,” it continued.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, which has so proudly carried you on its shoulder to rejoice in your victory, maraming salamat!”
Safe to say, it took an entire nation for this historic moment to happen.
“In an article written by one of our Tokyo Olympians, EJ Obiena, adapting an old African proverb, said that it takes a village to win an Olympic gold. We cannot agree more. No one can singularly take credit for this success because we all played a part in it. Our athletes represented the whole country solidly standing behind them and cheering them on. Salamat po sa inyong lahat,” it said.
“Putting it in our context, we say it takes a nation to realize a dream.”