The Philippines in the Asian Games

We were once among the best in Asia
by JOSEPH A. DUMUK

WAS there a period that could be considered the “Glorious Years of Philippine Sports?” In my lifetime, I believe there was. With this piece, I hope to be able to make young sports enthusiasts aware of and help the older ones recall the good old days when the Philippines held its own in Asia—when Filipinos were kings of the basketball court, when Filipinas were the fastest on the track, when only Japan was on top of the Philippines in the medal tally.

On Nov. 12-27, 2010, China will host for the second time the biggest Asian inter-continental multi-sports competitions. The XVI Asian Games will be held in Guangzhou, Guandong Province. There will be 476 events in 42 sports–the most ever in the history of the Asian Games–to be contested.

The Philippine Olympic Committee recently submitted to the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee the names of more than 191 athletes making up the Philippine delegation. POC officials have predicted the Philippines will do better than the four-gold, six-silver, nine-bronze medals brought home by the 233 athletes who competed in the XV Asian Games in Doha, Qatar on Dec. 1-15, 2006.

The Philippines has participated in all Asian Games since the inaugural games on March 4-11, 1951 in New Delhi, India. In the past 15 editions of the Games, the Philippines has won 60 or 1.78 percent of the 3,373 gold medals awarded. Filipino athletes have garnered 357 (60 gold, 105 silver, 192 bronze medals) or 3.39 percent of the 10,529 medals disputed in the Games. This performance puts the Philippines in ninth place in the cumulative medal table of all past 15 Asian Games.

Seven of every 10 Asian Games gold medals awarded went to China, Japan and South Korea–the dominant sporting nations in the world’s largest continent. These three nations have also gobbled up almost six of every 10 medals of every color. A fourth strong sporting nation, Kazakhstan, has joined the “elite three” since 1994 when former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan joined the Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan.

Asian Games Table 1

The Philippines fared very well in the first four Asian Games: fifth in 1951 in New Delhi with five gold, six silver and eight bronze medals; second in 1954 here in Manila with 14-14-17; second in 1958 in Tokyo, Japan with 8-19-21; and fourth in Jakarta, Indonesia with 7-14-16.

The acme of Philippine participation in the Asian Games occurred on May 1-9, 1954 in Manila where the country finished second behind Japan. Of the 75 gold medals disputed, Filipinos won 14 (18.67 percent) and kept home 45 (20.64 percent) of the 218 total medals disputed. On the other hand, the nadir happened in the VII Asian Games in 1974 in Tehran, Iran, where Filipinos failed to win even one gold medal.

More than one-half (35 of 60) of the Philippines’ Asian gold medals were won in the first four editions of the Games, 11 in the last four Asian Games and only 14 from 1966 to 1990. There is a flicker of brightness, though, if the trend in the last three Asian Games would continue. From the solitary gold medal in 1998 in Bangkok, Thailand, the Philippines grabbed three in 2002 in Busan, South Korea and brought home four from Doha, Qatar in 2006. This pales in comparison, however, if we look at the Philippines’ share of the gold medal pie in the first four Asian Games.

Asian Games Table 2

Let us now take a look at the sports and athletes that produced the 60 Philippine Asian Games gold medals. Boxing has accounted for 14, followed by athletics with 11 and aquatics with 10. Shooting and bowling have delivered six each, while billiards and tennis have chipped in three each. Equestrian, golf and wushu have contributed one each.

Basketball has produced four gold medals–the only gold medals won by the Philippines in Asian Games Team Sports! Filipinos were lords of the ring in New Delhi (1951), Manila (1954), Tokyo (1958) and Jakarta (1962). Carlos “The Great Difference” Loyzaga has the distinction of being the only member of these four championship teams. Mariano “Nano” Tolentino played in three, missing only the Jakarta (1962) Games.

In the past 48 years, the brightest Asian Games basketball medal the Philippines won was silver in Beijing in 1990. Our last Asian Games basketball medal was bronze in Bangkok in 1998.

Three of every four (45 of 60) Philippine Asian Games gold medals were won in individual events. Five were earned in running and swimming relays, four were copped by duos in billiards (2), tennis and bowling; and two were grabbed by the women team-of-five in bowling.

Asian Games Table 3

The Filipino athlete with the most number of Asian Games gold medals is Olivia “Bong” Coo who has won five. In Bangkok (1978), she won the Masters, all-events and was a member of the champion team of five. Two Asian Games later, in Seoul (1986), Coo again topped the All-Events and was again a member of the champion team-of-five.

Sprinter Mona Sulaiman and swimmer Haydee Coloso Espino have three gold medals each. Sulaiman won all three in Jakarta (1962)–the sprints double (100-m and 200-m) and as a member of the 4×100-m relay quartet. Coloso-Espino won the 100-m freestyle and 100-m butterfly in Manila (1954) and was a member of the victorious 4×100-m medley relay squad in Tokyo (1958).

Sprinters Lydia de Vega, Innocencia Solis, Isaac Gomez and Remigio Vista, shooters Adolfo Feliciano and Martin Gison, and swimmers Jacinto Cayco and Artemio Salamat have two Asian gold medals each.

De Vega was Asia’s fastest woman in New Delhi (1982) and Seoul (1986) while Solis was the top sprinter in Tokyo (1958) and a member of the winning 4×100-m relay team in Jakarta (1962). Gomez and Vista were members of the winning 4×100-m relay quartets in Tokyo (1958) and Jakarta (1962).

In Manila (1954), Feliciano won the small bore rifle, 3-position event and Gison topped the rapid fire pistol event. In Tokyo (1958), Feliciano dominated the free rifle event while the air rifle event went Gison’s way.

Cayco and Salamat had their golden moments in New Delhi (1951). Cayco was tops in the 200-m breaststroke while Salamat won the 100-m breaststroke. Both were members of the winning 3×100-m medley relay troika.

FILIPINO ASIAN GAMES GOLD MEDALISTS
By Sport

BOXING
1954 Manila:Ernesto Sajo (Flyweight); Alejandro Ortonste (Bantamweight); Celedonio Espinosa, (Lightweight); Ernesto Porto (Lightwelterweight); Vicente Tunacao (Middleweight)
1962 Jakarta: Manfredo Alipala (Welterweight)
1966 Bangkok: Rodolfo Arpon (Lightweight)
1970 Bangkok: Ricardo Fortaleza (Bantamweight)
1990 Beijing: Roberto Jalnaiz
Hiroshima (1994): Mansueto Velasco Jr. (Lightflyweight); Elias Recaido Jr. (Flyweight); Reynaldo Galido (Lightwelterweight)
2006 Doha: Joan Tipon (Flyweight); Violito Payla (Bantamweight)

ATHLETICS
1951 New Delhi: Andres Franco (High Jump)
1958 Tokyo: Visitacion Bedaña (Broad Jump); Pedro Somblingo, Isaac Gomez, Enrique Bautista, Remigio Vista (4×100-m); Innocencia Solis (100-m)
1962 Jakarta: Isaac Gomez, Claro Pellosis, Remigio Vista, Rogelio Onofre (4×100-m); Aida Molinos, Innocencia Solis, Francisca Sañopal, Mona Sulaiman (4×100-m); Mona Sulaiman (100-m and 200-m)
1966 Bangkok: Josephine de la Viña (Discus throw)
1982 New Delhi: Lydia de Vega (100-m)
1986 Seoul: Lydia de Vega (100-m)

AQUATICS
1954 New Delhi: Artemio Salamat (100-m breaststroke); Jacinto Cayco (200-m breaststroke); Artemio Salamat, Jacinto Cayco, Nortahab Rahab (3×100 medley)
1954 Manila: Parsons Nabuila (200-m butterfly); Haydee Coloso (100-m freestyle and 100-m butterfly); Jocelyn Von Giese (100-m backstroke)
1958 Tokyo: Victoria Cagayat, Jocelyn Von Giese, Sandra Von Giese, Haydee Coloso-Espino (4×100-m medley relay)
1978 Bangkok: Gerardo “Ral” Rosario (200-m freestyle)
1982 New Delhi: William Wilson (200-m freestyle)

BOWLING
1978 Bangkok: Olivia “Bong” Coo (All-Events and Masters); Rosario de Leon, Lolita Reformado, Lita de la Rosa, Rellie Castillo, Bong Coo (Team of Five)
1986 Seoul: Olivia “Bong” Coo, All-Events; Bong Coo, Catalina Solis, Cecilia Gaffud, Rebecca Watanabe, Ariane Cerdeña (Team of Five)
2002 Busan: Rowen Jay Bautista, Rafael Nepomuceno (Doubles)

SHOOTING
1954 Manila: Hernando Castelo, Free Rifle; Albert Von Einseidel, Small Bore Rifle, Prone; Adolfo Feliciano, Small Bore Rifle, 3-Position; Martin Gison, Rapid Fire Pistol
1958 Tokyo: Adolfo Feliciano, Free Rifle 300 W; Martin Gison, Air Rifle (Open Event)

BASKETBALL
1951 New Delhi: Francisco Calilan, Andres de la Cruz, Genaro Fernandez, Jose Gachangco, Rafael Hechanova, Luis Lorenzo, Carlos Loyzaga, Antonio Martinez, Lauro Mumar, Ignacio Ramos, Meliton Santos, Mariano Tolentino
1954 Manila: Bayani Amador, Florentino Bautista, Jose Ma. Cacho, Napoleon Flores, Antonio Genato, Rafael Hechanova, Eddie Lim, Carlos Loyzaga, Ramon Mnulat, Lauro Mumar, Francisco Rabat, Ignacio Ramos, Ponciano Saldaña, Mariano Tolentino
1958 Tokyo: Emilio Achacoso, Kurt Bachman, Carlos Badion, Loreto Carbonell, Francisco Lagarejos, Eduardo Lim, Carlos Loyzaga, Ramon Manulat, Lonardo Marquicias, Constancio Ortiz, Mariano Tolentino, Martin Urra, Antonio Villamor, Francis Wilson
1962 Jakarta: Kurt Bachman, Narciso Bernardo, Geronimo Cruz, Engracio Arazas, Manuel Jocson, Carlos Loyzaga, Alfonso Marquez, Roehl Nadurata, Eduardo Pacheco, Cristobal Ramas, Alberto Reynoso, Edgardo Roque

TENNIS
1958 Tokyo Raymundo Deyro, Singles; Raymundo Deyro, Felicisimo Ampon (Doubles)
1962 Jakarta: Juan Ma.Jose, Singles

BILLIARDS
1998 Bangko: Gandy Valle, Romeo Villanueva (9-Ball Pool Doubles)
2002 Busan: Francisco Bustamante, Antonio Lining (9-Ball Pool Doubles)
2006 Doha: Antonio Gabica (9-Ball Pool Singles)

WUSHU
2006 Doha: Rene Catalan, Sanshou (Minus 52 kg.)

GOLF
1986 Seoul: Ramon Brobio (Individual)

EQUESTRIAN
2002 Busan: Mikaela Cojuangco Jaworski (Individual)

Looking at the Asian Games performance in different sports in the past half century, hopefully, our sports leaders would take this into account in prioritizing where to put our scarce resources–especially if we use gold medals in international competitions as one parameter of performance.

References: Wikipedia
Philippine Olympic Committee Website
Olympic Council of Asia Website

Editor’s Note: Mr. Joseph A. Dumuk worked as Senior Sports and Games Regulatory Officer of the Philippine Sports Commission from 1990 up to 1996. He is a three-time recipient of a Philippine Sportswriters Association citation for his work in sports and in the government sports agency. He is still a consultant of the PSC now based in San Fernando, La Union.

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