LIST: All Filipino Summer Olympics medalists in history
MANILA, Philippines—Record set. Reputation broken.
For 97 years the Philippines longed for that elusive gold medal in the Olympics and a teary-eyed Hidilyn Diaz fulfilled that nearly century-old dream when she lifted a total of 224 kilograms on Monday at Tokyo International Forum.
Diaz’s victory not only delivered the country’s first gold but also shattered the nation’s previous identity of being just a minnow in the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.
The historic win also made Diaz a two-time medalist in the Olympics making her the second Filipino to become a dual medal winner in the Summer Games along with pioneer swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso.
In total, the Philippines has won 14 medals in the Olympics, four of which came in Tokyo in the country’s best performance yet in the Summer Games.
Here is the list of athletes who saw the Philippine flag hoisted during medal ceremonies:
Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting) – Gold (Tokyo 2020), Silver (Rio 2016)
At this point in time, Hidilyn Diaz is now the queen of Filipino Olympians.
Diaz won the medal of miracles in what could be the most poetic ways.
The Philippine Air Force sergeant, who took four Olympiads to claim the historic gold, was the last person to walk to the stage of Tokyo International Forum with a 127-kilogram barbell waiting for her.
China’s Liao Qiuyun, at that point, was already poised to take the gold when she lifted a total of 223 kg, 97 kg in the snatch and 126 kg in the clean and jerk, but Diaz declared for 127 kilograms in her final attempt.
Diaz, who recorded 97 kg in the snatch after failing in her 99 kg attempt, knew that lifting just one kilogram more than Liao would be her defining moment.
With tears coming from her eyes milliseconds before judges deemed the successful lift, Diaz knew that she found her place in Olympus.
Nesthy Petecio (boxing) – Silver (Tokyo 2020)
Nesthy Petecio was just one of two female Filipino boxers to have qualified for the Summer Games, along with Irish Magno, but she has the distinction of being the first to win a medal.
Already an accomplished amateur boxer, Petecio has won at every level there is pocketing gold medals in both the Southeast Asian Games and the AIBA World Championships.
Petecio was on the road to glory easily dispatching the opposition in Tokyo, with the exception of world no.1 featherweight Lin Yu-Ting whom she beat via split decision, en route to the gold medal match against Japan’s Irie Sena.
Her chance at gold, however, was not to be as Irie methodically kept the aggressive Petecio at bay.
Nevertheless, Petecio became the Philippines’ first silver medalist in women’s boxing.
Coincidentally, Petecio won her silver medal on the same date, August 3, as Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won his in 1996 in Atlanta.
Carlo Paalam (boxing) – Silver (Tokyo 2020)
Starting boxing at nine years old, Carlo Paalam saw the sport as an escape from his scavenging days and his silver medal in Tokyo was the trophy to his journey.
With Tokyo’s prizes made of discarded gadgets, Paalam clutched his silver medal as if it had a golden luster as he himself described it as the storybook ending to his days as a dumpster diver.
Paalam, who stands at a humble 5-foot-3, was a whirling derby at Kokugikan Arena defeating his opponents in any way he wanted.
His path led him to cross paths with Rio 2016 veteran Galal Yafai of Great Britain for the gold medal match.
Paalam’s fight against Yafai was an absolute barnburner that even a knock down in the first round of their flyweight bout couldn’t derail his continuous offense.
Alas it was Yafai that took the 4-1 win and the gold medal as Paalam settled for the silver.
Eumir Marcial (boxing) – Bronze (Tokyo 2020)
Philippine boxing continued to excel in the Olympics as Eumir Marcial took home the bronze medal in the men’s middleweight division.
Seen as one of the strong contenders for a podium, Marcial went into an absolute dogfight against Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzniak in the semifinals.
While Marcial had the power, Khyzniak had enough guile to withstand the Filipino’s power.
Come the third round, however, it became evident that Khyzniak’s experience and more well-rounded style was enough to put away Marcial who lost via split decision.
Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco (boxing) – Silver (Atlanta 1996)
The Philippines could have had its first Olympic gold in 1996–if veteran columnist and broadcaster Recah Trinidad would be believed.
Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco may have made his name in entertainment as a dependable comedic sidekick, but his athletic prime saw him as a potential Olympic hero.
Velasco dominated the light flyweight field in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, winning four straight matches before losing in controversial fashion to Bulgarian Daniel Petrov.
Trinidad, who was broadcasting the fight, saw how Petrov amassed the points which he believed should’ve gone to Velasco.
While Velasco hit cleanly, Petrov scored cleaner and the Bulgarian took the gold with a 19-6 win.
That loss prompted Velasco, the brother of national team coaches Nolito and Roel Velasco, to quit boxing enter show business.
Roel Velasco (boxing) – Bronze (Barcelona 1992)
Onyok was the first boxer to give the Philippines a hardy reputation in the Olympics, he wasn’t even the first Velasco to do it.
His older brother Roel was just one of Filipino boxers to carry the Philippine flag to the Olympic podium and he did it in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics–yes, the Summer Games that saw the Dream Team–when he settled for the bronze in the light flyweight division after losing to eventual champion Rogelio Marcelo of Cuba.
Roel was coming off a gold medal campaign in Asian Amateur Boxing Championships just months before the Barcelona Olympics and he made further history in 1997 when he captured the gold in the 1997 Muhammad Ali Invitational Boxing Championships in Kentucky.
Leopoldo Serantes (boxing) – Bronze (Seoul 1988)
An Olympiad before Roel captured the bronze in Barcelona, army sergeant Leopoldo Serantes did the same in Seoul in 1998.
Serantes, a gold medalist in the 1985 Bangkok Southeast Asian Games, tore through the light flyweight division winning two of his three fights by referee stoppage and the other one by a 5-0 unanimous decision.
That dominant run, however, came to an end in the semifinals when he lost to eventual gold medal winner Ivailo Khristov of Bulgaria.
Serantes’ bronze medal campaign, at that time, also ended a 24-year medal drought for the Philippines and also saved practically his life.
Before Serantes won the bronze medal, his family was in danger of getting evicted.
According to the Associated Press back in 1988, h/t Manila Chronicle, Serantes’ wife Divina and three children were almost forced out of their home before then Manila mayor Mel Lopez sent an aide with enough money to pay the three-month outstanding rent.
Anthony Villanueva (boxing) – Silver (Tokyo 1964)
More than two decades before Serantes’ bronze medal in Korea, his coach Anthony Villanueva was the Philippines’ last Olympic medal winner.
Villanueva was practically a newcomer to the sport before he represented the Philippines and won silver, the country’s first, in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Just two years before Tokyo, Villanueva triumphed in the national tournament to qualify for the Summer Games.
Villanueva fought a tight split decision in his first match of the Summer Games, a 3-2 win over Italian Giovanni Girgenti, then dominated the next three including a referee stoppage in the quarterfinals against Poland’s Piotr Gutman.
His 3-2 split decision loss to the Soviet Union’s Stanislav Stepashkin surely ruffled feathers, especially from the Philippine delegation.
Villanueva moved on to the professional ranks in 1965 but had a miserable career going 1-3.
He passed away in 2014 aged 69.
Miguel White (athletics) – Bronze (Berlin 1936)
Villanueva’s silver medal campaign in Tokyo was another drought ender as the Philippines never saw its flag get hoisted for 28 years during Olympic podium ceremonies.
Before Villanueva, the Philippines’ last medal winner was track and field’s Miguel White.
The Filipino-American competed in the 400-meter hurdles wherein he won silver during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, yes the one infamously labelled as the Nazi Games.
Hailing from Legazpi, Albay, White lived in a turbulent time and on August 30, 1942, he was killed in military action during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.
White, at the time of his death, was a lieutenant assigned to the 51st Infantry Division.
Jose Villanueva (boxing) – Bronze (Los Angeles 1932)
The year 1932 was only the second Olympic Games that the Philippines climbed the podium where three different athletes also claim a medal.
Boxer Jose Villanueva was one of the three Filipino bronze medalists in Los Angeles, claiming the podium finish when his opponent Joseph Lang of the United States failed to show up for their match in the bantamweight division.
While Villanueva never found further success as a fighter after his bronze medal win, he transitioned into a successful run as trainer.
Villanueva trained one of the country’s early boxing superstars Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, who held the 130-pound title for seven years.
He passed away in 1983 due to heart attack.
Simeon Toribio (athletics) – Bronze (Los Angeles 1932)
A three-time Olympian, Simeon Toribio captured his first and only medal in his second Olympic Games when he placed third in the high jump event of the 1932 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Toribio first competed in the Olympics in 1928 in Amsterdam then his third and last was in 1936 in Berlin.
His athletic career was already of note even before he became a bronze medalist. In 1930, he was named Asia’s Greatest Athlete and from 1921 to 1934 won five gold medals in the Far Eastern Games.
The 1936 Philippine flag bearer, though, had a more climactic story post-Olympics.
Toribio graduated from Siliman University and became a civil engineer in 1941 and then became a lawyer to eventually represent the province of Bohol in the House of Representatives from 1941 to 1953.
During World War II, Toribio narrowly escaped captured at the hands of the Japanese Military Police when one of the officers saw that he had in his possession a souvenir from one of his competitions in Japan.
Upon seeing the trinket and the fact that it was the emperor’s birthday at the time, as per Olympics.com, Toribio was released.
Teofilo Yldefonso (swimming) – Bronze (Los Angeles 1932, Amsterdam 1928)
Teofilo Yldefonso was not only the Philippines’ first podium finisher but also the country’s pioneer winner.
Yldefonso, the first Southeast Asian to win an Olympic medal, was one of the greatest swimmers of his generation winning four gold and two bronze medals in the Far Eastern Games from 1928 to 1934.
He had an unorthodox breaststroke that shorter swimmers still use today and his style gave him the distinction as “The Father of the Modern Breastroke,” as per Swimming World Magazine.
Yldefonso, however, had a sad end to his life.
The Olympian was a lieutenant of the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts during World War II and was subjected to the infamous Death March from Bataan to Tarlac.
Yldefonso was then sent to a concentration camp where he died at 39.
His life would’ve been spared if swimming rival and friend Tsuruta Yoshi, an officer in the Japanese miltary, made a call earlier.
Tsuruta learned of Yldefonso’s predicament and called for his friend’s release.
It was believed that Yldefonso received a word of his release, upon Tsuruta’s call, but he refused to leave his men.