|NATALIE COUGHLIN – Winningest American female Olympic medalist. At right, 1948 London Olympic gold medalist Vicki Manalo Draves with then Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos.|
As Filipino athletes have won at least nine silver and bronze medals in the Olympics, mostly in boxing, the Philippines continues to nurture the elusive dream of capturing the gold in the summer games. Our Olympic medalists so far are Teodoro Ydelfonso, Simeon Toribio, Jose Villanueva, Miguel White, Leopoldo Serantes, Roel Velasco, who bagged the bronze and Anthony Villanueva and Mansueto Velasco, two great boxers, who won the silvers.
If the record of many American athletes with Filipino blood is the gauge, the Filipinos could actually snatch a gold medal or two. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, take the case of Victoria Manalo Taylor Draves, whose father Teofilo Manalo was a musician from Tarlac, who snatched not just one but two golds in the London Olympics of 1948 in springboard and platform diving events. Then there is the favorite daughter of Vallejo, California, Natalie Aguillon Coughlin, the winningest American woman Olympic medalist with four golds, four silvers and four bronze in swimming. Coughlin’s mother is a full-blooded Filipino from Cavite.
The trouble with Philippine sports is that politics is eating it up. Thus, the country has no massive sports program to boot and athletes are at the mercy of politicians and officials who offer but crumbs to the youth with big potentials in the world of sports. The country’s quest for supremacy in basketball is one good example. While the Philippines dominated Asian basketball for some time, the cagers are now at the mercy of taller and stronger Chinese, Iranians and others from Asia alone. The just concluded FIBA Asia tourney in China, for instance, showed the gallantry of an ill-prepared team which nevertheless ended up as silver medalist with a chance to join the Rio Olympics next year nil. But gallantry and support of fans and some helpful benefactors will not do the magic alone. When will the Filipinos learn? Shall we be content with the tag as the country with so many medals in the Olympics but without a gold? What would it take for the Philippine leaders to wake up and instill the pride in Filipinos once more, especially in athletics and sports? Wake up everyone!