Team Pilipinas finished in 17th place in the 2022 Asian Games.
Although they brought home fewer medals compared to the 2018 continental meet (4 golds, 2 silvers, 15 bronze), missing three bronzes, the Philippines climbed two places higher in the Hangzhou Games.
This ranked them fourth-best among Southeast Asian countries, with Thailand leading the way with 12 golds, followed by Indonesia’s seven and Malaysia’s six.
Certainly, it was still a successful campaign by the Philippines, led by our sporting royalty.
The Expected Gold
Entering the seventh day of the games, hope was running out for Team Pilipinas.
Medals were coming one by one during the first week of the tournament. And all of them were bronzes.
But EJ Obiena was on deck.
Expectedly, the 25-year-old second-generation pole-vaulter took down the competition with ease, notching a gold medal-winning 5.75 meters in just his third attempt.
Obiena, however, wanted more.
He shattered the Asian Games record of 5.7 meters set by Seito Yamamoto in 2018 with a 5.9 meters in his fourth attempt.
Though he tried to breach the 6.0-meter barrier as a gift for his coach Vitaly Petrov, it was not meant to be on this day.
Gold finally arrived.
Golds of Hope
With Filipino martial artists falling left and right in the Asian Games, the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines ended up being the beacon of hope with just four days left in the competition.
It was Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez who stepped up to the plate and answered the call.
Ochoa breezed through her first three matches in the -48kg division, setting up a showdown with UAE’s Balqees Abdulla.
Motivated by the challenges faced by her and her teammates on their journey to Hangzhou, the pint-sized world champion survived Abdulla en route to the country’s second gold.
Two days later, it was Ramirez’s turn.
Ramirez would blitz the competition, giving the country its third gold.
And there will be no stopping Ochoa and Ramirez in the years to come as they are just hitting their prime years.
The Gold That Matters
Entering the Asian Games, all eyes were on Gilas Pilipinas Men.
The Philippines was coming off an embarrassing FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 campaign that saw the host only notch one win despite years of preparation.
However, this Gilas team had it worse, only having a couple of weeks to not just form a team but also prepare for the tournament.
Safe to say, little was expected from them.
As expected, the Philippines ended up second in its group, with Jordan ending up as the top seed.
The Philippines then vanquished Qatar and Iran on back-to-back days, setting up a clash against host China.
Unlike the Worlds that saw them have Jordan Clarkson and thousands of fans behind them, this team had none.
And in the first half, Gilas seemed dead in the water with Team Dragon taking a 49-30 edge.
Well, Justin Brownlee happened.
Slowly, the Philippines chipped away at the lead to set up the heroics for Brownlee. The Philippines had just done the unthinkable, beating China, 77-76.
This set up a rematch with Jordan.
Tim Cone was ready this time around.
Gilas put on a defensive master-class against the Falcons en route to a 70-60 triumph in the gold medal match.
Finally, the 61-year wait was over. More importantly, Philippine basketball got a much-needed win.
Silver that Shone like Gold
Eumir Marcial set aside his pro career to have one more shot at an Olympic berth.
By the fourth day of the -80kg competitions, the pride of Zamboanga City had already achieved the feat, punching his ticket to Paris in a dominant semifinal outing against Ahmad Ghousoon.
Of course, Marcial wanted more.
But in the gold medal match, he faced a hometown bet in Toqtarbek Tanatqan.
The first two rounds of the bout were split, with Marcial taking Round 1 while Tanatqan took the second to set up a golden round.
Though Tanatqan connected early in the third round, it was Marcial who was the aggressor for most of it.
However, in the judges’ eyes, it was the Chinese pugilist who won.
Though classy in defeat, Marcial could only say one thing: “This should have been gold.”
The Bemedalled Stars
Special mention should be given to young tennis player Alex Eala and the Philippine Men’s National Sepak Takraw Team, composed of Ronsited Gabayeron, Mark Joseph Gonzales, Jason Huerte, Rheyjey Ortouste, and Jom Lerry Rafael.
The young Eala brought home two bronze medals in tennis.
Despite being ranked lower than her semifinal opponent, 21-year-old Zheng Qinwen, Eala poured her heart out in the match that earned praise from everyone.
Eala also finished third in the mixed doubles competition alongside Francis Alcantara.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ V in sepak takraw only fell to powerhouse squads Indonesia and Malaysia in the quadrant and regu semifinals, respectively.
The other silver medalist for Team Pilipinas was Arnel Mandal of wushu.
The rest of the medalists were Patrick King Perez of taekwondo; Jones Inso, Gideon Padua, and Clemente Tabugara of wushu; Patrick Coo of cycling, Elreen Ando of weightlifting, Sakura Alforte of karate, and Kaila Napolis of jiujitsu.