An Olympic gold medalist who did not officially count, now made immortal
Arianne Cerdeña-Valdez fell on both knees after the ball smashed all the pins for the seventh straight frame.
She then walked to her team’s corner, pumped both fists into the air and hugged her coach Ernesto Lopa in celebration.
The astounded crowd at the women’s bowling finals of the 1988 Olympics at Royal Bowling Center in Seoul just witnessed the first Olympic gold medal for the Philippines.
“It’s hard to describe how I felt that time. It’s indescribable,” Cerdeña-Valdez told the Inquirer. “During the interview, I didn’t even know what I was saying.”
Too bad Arianne’s victory was unregistered in the official medal tally of the Games since bowling was merely a demonstration sport. Still, it was a feat no Filipino athlete has matched—a championship in the Summer Games.
The feat was so rare, it seemed a no-brainer for the selection committee of the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame (PSHOF) to enshrine Cerdeña-Valdez in the pantheon of elite Filipino sports heroes in a distinguished ceremony on April 29.
“When I was still an athlete, I always tried to be perfect, and that seemed impossible,” said Cerdeña-Valdez, thanking the Philippine Sports Commission and the PSHOF selection committee for the enshrinement.
“I encountered failures and it made me strive harder. I listened to my teachers and learned from them,” added Cerdeña-Valadez, a recollection that doubles as a piece of advice to the younger generation of athletes.
Faceoff vs Japanese
Part of the women’s team competition that captured the gold medal in the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, Cerdeña-Valdez topped the 11-game elimination round in the Seoul Olympics before the tournament boiled down to a faceoff with Asian Games champion Atsuko Asai of Japan.
Cerdeña-Valdez lost her match to Asai, 197-180, in elims, but it failed to dampen her spirit, as the Filipino bowling ace responded mightily down the concluding frames with seven consecutive strikes and won, 249-211.
The feat is a distant memory now, and so is the sport.
“I don’t bowl anymore, I have been working at California Hospital Medical Center for more than five years now,” said Cerdeña-Valdez, a registered nurse who has a daughter with the same profession.
“My last tournament was in the SEA Games in 2001. When I won a gold medal in the doubles event, it was a sign for me to retire,” she added.
Still, the gold was an Olympic feat worth remembering and Cerdeña-Valdez an athlete worth honoring.
Likewise to be enshrined are Paulino Alcantara (football), Eric Buhain (swimming), Dionisio Calvo (coach-basketball, football), Robert Jaworski (basketball), Gertrudes Lozada (swimming), Elma Muros-Posadas (athletics), Rogelio Onofre (athletics), Leopoldo Serrantes (boxing) and Roel Velasco (boxing).
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