BREAKING away from the usual freelancing themes often discussed in this column, I am here to talk about the ongoing Tokyo Olympics. Japan’s hosting of the world’s most anticipated sports event in the middle of a pandemic has given us a brief respite from the chaos of the modern world and renewed our hopes that all of us are slowly getting out of this seemingly vicious cycle of lockdowns, deaths, and new variants of Covid-19.
While the opening activities held at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium were more subdued sans a live audience, it had highlights that showed us an impressive mix of tradition and technology. The parade of athletes was ushered in by music from popular Japanese video games. Thematic music from Final Fantasy’s Victory Fanfare, Sonic the Hedgehog’s Star Light Zone, and Pro Evolution Soccer’s eFootball were played as Japanese cheerers like Energizer bunnies never ceased to wave and clap as Olympians entered the stadium.
The most notable part of the athlete’s parade for me was, of course, our Filipino representatives, boxer Eumir Marcial and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, carrying and waving the Philippine flag as officials took strides while entering the stadium wearing the traditional Barong Tagalog accented by distinctly recognizable weaves from the Cordilleras.
And cheering from the stands holding in her hand a huge Philippine flag was Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, our former Asian Games gold medalist, who is now a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board. The 90’s kid in me still remembers those dimples and smiles from the pretty actress and former Olympian who recently was elected to a four-year term in the IOC Executive Board, the first Asian woman to do so in the so-called Old Boys Club of the Olympics.
A few days later in the games, Cojuangco-Jaworski would be handing over the country’s highly coveted Olympic gold medal to now-iconic weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz. After 97 years of joining the Olympics, we have finally struck gold in Diaz’s dashing display of sheer strength and sacrifice. The 30-year-old Zamboangeňa weightlifter, who broke two Olympic records in her Snatch and final Clean and Jerk while outsmarting her Chinese foe, delivered what she promised after her Silver medal finish at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Diaz’s stellar performance last Monday even eclipsed President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address. The three-hour-long litany of what Duterte claims as his administration’s accomplishments were set aside and even ignored by probably the majority of Filipinos as Diaz secured the historic gold.
As the Olympic Games continue in the coming days, my medal hopes are leaning towards our female athletes. Not popping the balloon on the still-to-be-decided conquests of our male athletes like boxer Marcial, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and gymnast Caloy Yulo, I see more women showing more of their strength in the final stretch of the games. One example of female domination for Pinoy Olympians is University of Baguio alumni Nesthy Petecio’s recent win by securing a podium finish by defeating her Colombian opponent. Petecio is expected to continue her goal to a golden finish this weekend as she enters the semi-finals of her weight division.
We’ve also seen our female Olympians getting nods from audiences all over the world. Skateboarder Margielyn Didal, for example, became a darling of the press with her positive attitude and display of camaraderie during the games. She even gained fans all the way to Brazil. On Tuesday, Diaz’s fellow weightlifter Elreen Ando also showed a promising future in her Olympic debut. Both Ando and Didal are Cebuanas who ended up in seventh place in their first-ever Olympic forays. Who knows what they can achieve in the next edition of the games?
In the remaining days of the Olympiad, I am also expecting more surprises from our female golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan. The female Asian Games gold medalists will definitely stamp their class as they hit the Kasumigaseki Country Club’s course, especially Saso, who recently claimed the first-ever US Women’s Open title for the Philippines in June.
To be honest, it’s not only Hidilyn Diaz’s gold medal win that has overshadowed President Duterte’s lackluster SONA but the entire Tokyo Olympics itself. Day after day of the quadrennial games, we are in awe of what real achievements and products of hard work by the world’s top athletes feel and look like. The games reminded us again that sacrifice and love of country can lift the whole nation. The Olympic Games also taught us to never underestimate the strength of humanity, especially of women. Because we all know, only a mad man would do that.