Who can stop China in London?By Manolo Iñigo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Four years ago, in the 2008 Beijing Games, China unseated perennial winner United States with a total of 51 gold, 21 silver, and 28 bronze medals. The US wound up second with a 36-38-36 gold-silver-bronze tally.
Other top finishers in Beijing were Russia (23-21-28), Great Britain (19-13-15), Germany (16-10-15), Australia (14-15-17), South Korea (13-10-8), Italy (8-10-10), and France (7-16-17).
Meanwhile, the Philippines, still seeking the elusive Olympic gold since joining the Games in 1914 in Paris, is sending a lean and mean delegation of nine athletes so far.
The early Olympic qualifiers are boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, BMX rider Daniel Caluag, track and field’s Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna, and shooter Brian Rosario.
The last to join the Olympic team was weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz who is entered in the women’s 58-kilogram category.
“I thank the MVP (Manuel V. Pangilinan) Sports Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission for their support for the weightlifting association,” said association president Monico Puentevella.
The last time the Philippines won an Olympic medal was in the 1996 Atlanta Games when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco brought home a silver.
“We are still on track and we have still three more weeks to finally win that elusive Olympic gold,” said chef de mission Manny T. Lopez, who is also the vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
The POC is sending Barriga, Rosario, Alkhaldi, and Lacuna to a pre-Olympic training camp tomorrow with Torres and Herrera following them a week later.
Hoshima has decided to train in Tokyo and will fly to the Olympics on July 19. Caluag, the country’s brightest hope for a medal, will train and hone his skills in the Netherlands before proceeding to London.
Basketball living legend Robert Jaworski once said in an interview: “China closed the door to the outside world and worked feverishly to improve its sports program. And with the help of its National Sports Associations, the Chinese government took the lead in identifying its talents and training them to become world-class athletes. Now, China is an acknowledged world superpower not only in sports but in other aspects as well.”
I visited China twice: First during the historic “Ping Pong Diplomacy” in 1972 and the following year when it hosted the Afro-Asia Table Tennis Championships.
The Chinese athletes were virtually unknown then to the outside world. But with the government backing them to the hilt, China’s athletic prowess eventually became known far and wide.
With a population of a little over 1.2 billion, China has consistently made waves in the past Olympic Games.
In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Chinese athletes captured only five golds and were hardly noticed. China later made big improvements in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996 by landing fourth both times. The Chinese moved up to third overall in Sydney in 2000, and finished second in Athens in 2004.
In London, China is expected to dominate table tennis, weightlifting, athletics, diving, swimming, shooting, badminton, taekwondo, canoeing, gymnastics, and judo.
More from this Column:
- SEA Games host under fire
- PH hosts Fiba Asia caging after 40 years
- The great turnaround
- Pacman rebuts another doctor
- Dodjie Laurel and Macau GP