Long Strides for Gold

Hector O. Cofreros

n the past two years, nothing has made us prouder as Filipinos and a country as a whole than seeing our national anthem played for the first time in the Olympics. The credit goes to the Filipina weightlifter, Hidilyn Diaz, who won the first-ever gold medal of the Philippines in the summer games.

Diaz was very determined to get that gold. But it was not only that her determination that lifted the heaviest weights in the competition at that time. She lifted the soul of a nation that was still enduring torment by a pandemic.

However, this was not just Diaz’s moment. This moment was also for Filipino athletes who added three more medals placing the Philippines in the 50th place in the over-all medal tally. This is, insofar, the best performance of the country in all of its 97-year history participating in the modern games.

But beneath the glimmer and shine of the medals lie the tale of the struggle of the Filipino athletes.

Over the past years, people have rallied to the government to grant sufficient fundings for athletes competing and representing the country in the international sports competitions. The government itself has even acknowledged its insufficiencies in funding its athletes. Perhaps, the hosting of the Southeast Asian Games in 2019 by the Philippines became an eye-opener to everyone.

The hosting of the 30th SEA games by the Philippines in 2019 was surrounded by controversies and criticism mainly on corruption allegations on the seemingly unexpected delay in furnishing the venues in time of the arrival of the athletes and the start of the games. Criticism fired back to the government when images of unfinished structures being hammered still for completion and press conferences that were held on unfinished concrete walls.

Possibly, one would also easily remember the controversial 50-million-peso cauldron that was lit days ahead the opening of the games. Former karate champion Gretchen Malalad has blasted the Philippine government’s “extravagance” in the multimillion-peso cauldron that could have been spent instead for developing the athletes to help them compete well in the games.

Published: April 25, 2022