Surprise us, Aquino urges OlympiansBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Aquino reminded the small Philippine contingent to the London Olympics of the Filipinos’ ability to surprise the sporting world as he exhorted them to end the country’s gold-medal drought in the quadrennial meet.
“I know the world may not be expecting us to take home multiple gold medals. But I believe in the capacity of the Filipino to surprise,” said the President in a speech read by Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras during Monday night’s send-off party at Blue Leaf on McKinley Hill in Taguig.
“I believe in the capacity of the Filipino to be excellent in anything they do —to be world-class.”
Chief of mission Manny Lopez said they’re expecting somebody from the 11 Filipino Olympians to deliver a medal in London, something that hasn’t happened for a long time.
“We’re not going there for a vacation,” said Lopez. “We’re going there to win a medal.”
It has been 16 years since the Philippines last saw a medal—a silver courtesy of boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco in the 1996 Atlanta Games. The country has never won an Olympic gold medal.
President Aquino begged off from the send-off party due to a previous commitment in Baguio City.
“We have seen our countrymen surprise the world with their efforts many times,” he said. “We have seen it in our sporting heroes, from Onyok Velasco to Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippine Azkals to the Philippine Volcanoes.”
“But I—and every single one of your countrymen—will be counting on you to work even harder, so you can surprise the world once again, and win glory for yourself and for the Philippines on the world stage,” added Mr. Aquino.
The Olympians present were shooter Brian Rosario, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, long jumper Marestella Torres, steeplechaser Rene Herrera, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna.
Filipino-Japanese judoka Tomohiko Hoshina and Filipino-American BMX rider Danny Caluag are training abroad.
Reports have it that archers Mark Javier and Rachel Cabral have also made it to London but Lopez said there was no official confirmation yet from World Archery Federation.
Javier and Cabral are still in the United States following their successful qualifying stint in the recent World Archery Championships in Ogden, Utah.
Also present during the party were POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr., Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia, International Olympic Committee representative Frank Elizalde, two-time Olympian Art Macapagal, POC chair Monico Puentevella, and PSC commissioner Jolly Gomez.
Big-name sports personalities Manny V. Pangilinan, Mikee Romero, Ricky Vargas, among others, were also there.
“The contingent is small but it’s not a question of number, but a question of skill and heart,” said Pangilinan, whose television network, TV5, will cover the action in the Olympics.