The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is almost over and what a haul it has been for the Filipino athlete. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz put the country on her shoulders and lifted this country that has been desperate for inspiration to our first-ever gold medal. Nesthy Petecio boxed her way to our first ever silver in women’s boxing while promising young gymnast Carlos Yulo turned in an exceptional Olympic-level performance that almost netted a bronze.
We still have a few athletes in contention who can add to the medal haul before the games end. Flyweight boxer Carlo Paalam is now in the medal race after his shock defeat of the defending champion. Also assured of a medal is middleweight Eumir Marcial. Last but not least among our Olympic medal hopefuls are lady golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan.
The ever-resilient Filipino has proven once again that we can be world class if we put everything into whatever we are passionate about. The Olympic experience has shown that our everything, coming from everyone who is willing to help a good cause, trumps the pittance that our government gives for support.
If you come to think of it, the Olympic ordeal of the elite Filipino athlete is not so different from the pandemic experience of Juan de la Cruz. Both persevered and sometimes even emerge victorious not because of, but despite our mediocre government.
Hidilyn Diaz did not get ayuda and was not even rescued when she was stranded while training in Malaysia, but she persevered and won a gold medal. Juan dela Cruz got the bare minimum assistance from his government but he also persevered and for those of us who survived the pandemic and its never-ending quarantine restriction roulettes, such an achievement feels like a bronze medal at the very least.
While the level of funding and commitment required to even just qualify for the Olympics is a totally different level compared to the Herculean task of surviving day-to-day living in this country, Filipinos in general know what it is like to be self-reliant, resilient and creative when it comes to the many challenges we face.
Our Olympic medal haul hopefully gives us the inspiration to persevere and to go for gold in our lives despite all the obstacles and challenges. We aim to be the best we can be, despite the lack of government support, not because there are cash prizes in store for the successful, but because our Olympic winners have demonstrated that nothing can stop us from being the best in the world.
The excellence showcased by the Filipino in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is a welcome relief after all the mediocrity that we have been exposed to in recent years. It is heartwarming to see that our best isn’t just up to provincial small town standards, but capable of world-class quality.
While our gymnast may have disappointed by “only” placing 4th best in the world in his event, we have to remember that it is already an amazing achievement for a Filipino nation whose only exposure to the excellence in the sport over the past four years is the mental gymnastics of government officials and troll farms when they desperately justify poor or non-performance and even outright lies and broken promises.That Carlos Yulo qualified to compete in the Olympics is already an achievement. Those of us who were disappointed by his 4th place finish but are satisfied or have no comment on our government’s response to the pandemic need to take a long hard look at their standards and priorities.
In a country where government officials constantly lift their own bangko to prop up any achievement (or lack thereof), the fact that our first ever gold medal came from a sport like weightlifting shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The difference between Hidilyn Diaz and politicians is that she trained and worked to qualify for the Olympics and then once there, fairly competed against the world’s best while politicos are content with judging themselves as the best and brightest in the universe.
The best and worst thing about the Olympics is it reminded us what it is like to expect the best from the Filipino. We have become so used to low standards, low expectations, mediocrity and excuses packaged as jokes that we have almost forgotten what it is like to dream of being the best, compete in a level world class playing field, and emerge victorious.
Our Olympians have restored our singlehandedly restored our faith in the Filipino’s ability to overcome and excel, even in the world stage. For that reason alone, I am thankful that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics pushed through despite all the concerns and difficulties.*