Philippine Sports in 2023 recap: Busy year for national athletes | Inquirer Sports

Philippine Sports in 2023 recap: Busy year for national athletes

/ 09:11 PM December 30, 2023

A yearend review of Philippine Sports in 2023

A yearend review of the busy Philippine Sports in 2023. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines — It was indeed a busy 2023 for Philippine sports and it will go down as one of the most memorable years in the history books. 

Three years after the pandemic, the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games were held in one year. The Filipino athletes also competed in world tilts including the Filipinas’ maiden Fifa World Cup campaign and the country’s historic hosting of the Fiba World Cup Basketball 2023.


Let’s take a look back at the hectic yet banner year for Philippine sports before the new year.


Philippines impresses at Hanoi SEA Games 2023

The Philippines amassed 58 gold medals in the 2023 Hanoi SEA Games.

The Philippines amassed 58 gold medals in the 2023 Cambodia SEA Games.

Seeing action in two SEA Games in a row didn’t stop the Philippine team from getting 58 gold medals — the Filipinos’ biggest haul as a non-country host— in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to surpass the 52 golds it got in Vietnam the year prior.

The Philippines also finished with 85 silver medals and 117 in the 32nd edition. However, the country slid from fourth in Vietnam to fifth place this year despite having six more gold medals than the 31st SEA Games.

Arnis and Taekwondo earned the most medals for the Philippines with six each, while World No.2 pole vaulted EJ Obiena claimed his third straight SEA Games gold and set a new biennial meet record with 5.65 meters, surpassing his previous 5.46m in Vietnam.

Wushu artist Agatha Wong won her fifth SEA Games gold after ruling the women’s taijiquan + taijijian event. Olympic gymnast Caloy Yulo earned his third straight gold in the men’s individual all-around event, while weightlifter Vanessa Sarno was able to defend her title as she broke her record by lifting 105 kilograms in the snatch.

After a disappointing runner-up finish in Vietnam last year, Gilas Pilipinas reclaimed its crown after Justin Brownlee led the Chot Reyes-coached team to an 80-69 gold-medal-clinching win over host nation Cambodia.

Filipinas puts on historic campaign in the Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023

The Philippine women's football team puts on a historic campaign in the Fifa Women's World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The Philippine women’s football team puts on a historic campaign in the Fifa Women’s World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The Philippine women’s football team made its historic Fifa World Cup debut last July, which ended up with a first-round exit after losing to Norway, 6-0. Still, it was a tournament to remember for the Filipinas, who experienced a lot of firsts.


The debuting Filipinas fell to Switzerland in its first-ever Women’s World Cup game, 2-0, before 13,000 fans at t Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

But it didn’t stop the nationals from living their dream as the country earned its maiden win on the world stage with Sarina Bolden’s header in the 24th minute of the match and Olivia McDaniel’s big saves in the second half took down host co-host New Zealand, 1-0, in front of 32,000 fans at Wellington Regional Stadium.

It was a World Cup to remember for the crew bannered by Bolden, McDaniel, Hali Long, Katrina Guillou, Sara Eggesvik, Quinley Quezada, Jaclyn Sawicki, Alicia Barker, Long, Jessika Cowart, Sofia Harrison and Angie Beard.

However, coach Alen Stajcic stepped down from his post after leading the Filipinas to a historic World Cup appearance with Mark Torcaso taking over in the Hangzhou Asian Games and Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Philippines reached the quarterfinal of the Asiad in October and bombed out of Olympic contention in the second round of qualifiers in November.

The Filipinas still ended the year on a high note by reaching its best ranking in Fifa, climbing to No.38.

Philippines hosts the Fiba World Cup 2023; Gilas has lone win

As a huge basketball country-nation, the Philippines got its chance to host the Fiba World Cup 2023 from August 25 to September 10 and didn’t disappoint when Manila witnessed today’s basketball stars compete at the highest level.

The Filipinos kicked off the three-host-nation event — including Japan and Indonesia — by setting a new Fiba World Cup attendance record as 38,115 fans went to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan to erase a 29-year-old record only for Gilas to fall short to the Karl-Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic.

The Philippines surpassed the previous record of 32,616 fans during Team USA’s gold medal-clinching win over Russia in the 1994 World Cup final in Toronto, Canada.

But in the country’s second hosting of the world basketball tilt, Gilas, led by NBA star Jordan Clarkson had a disappointing finish and ended up winless in the first round after losing to Angola and Italy.

The national team continued to struggle as it failed to become the best Asian team and book an outright ticket to Paris 2024 after an 87-68 loss to South Sudan, which had a great World Cup debut with an Olympic berth.

But Clarkson saved the best for last as he exploded for 34 points to deliver Gilas’ lone win, 96-75 over Asian rival China, which led the Philippines to finish 24th in the World Cup for a spot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

However, Chot Reyes resigned after his second win in the World Cup, believing the future is bright for Gilas with AJ Edu, Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, and Rhenz Abando.

More than Gilas stint, Fiba was grateful for the Philippines hosting, where NBA stars like Luka Doncic of Slovenia, Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Germany’s Dennis Schroder joined Team USA’s Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Anthony Edwards, and fan favorite Austin Reaves and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Schroder and Germany ruled the World Cup after beating the Bogdanovic-led Serbia in the final, while Canada survived Team USA in overtime to capture the bronze.

Jiujitsu women fighters lead PH gold haul in Asian Games; Gilas rules

The Philippine national team had a four-medal haul in the 2023 Asian Games with pole vault star EJ Obiena and jiujitsu women’s stars Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez leading the way.

The Philippine national team had a four-medal haul in the 2023 Asian Games with pole vault star EJ Obiena and jiujitsu women’s stars Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez leading the way.

The Philippines earned four gold medals in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China with Obiena, Jiujitsu women’s stars Meggie Ochoa and Annie Ramirez, and the embattled Gilas ruling their respective sports.

The Filipinos matched its previous gold medal haul in the 2018 edition in Jakarta, Indonesia and earned two silver medals from Olympic-bound boxer Eumir Marcial and wushu artist Arnel Mandal and 12 bronze medals to rise from 19th place to 17th this year in China.

Obiena delivered the country’s first gold medal in this year’s Asian Games after setting a new record in the continental meet, clearing 5.90 meters. 

Jiu-jitsu was the top performing sport for the Philippines in the quadrennial meet as Ochoa ruled the women’s 48kg, while Ramirez topped the women’s -57kg.

Gilas, which failed to get the commitment of its World Cup core and had a short preparation under coach Tim Cone and the management of San Miguel Corporation, made an amazing run ruling the men’s 5-on-5 competition for the first time since 1962.

Led by Brownlee and a couple of PBA stars, the Filipinos overcame adversity until it reached the final, where they took down the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson-led Jordan, 70-60.

However, the gold medal was marred with controversy after Brownlee tested positive for a banned substance.

Since he failed his doping test, Brownlee’s case has yet to have any developments as Ginebra tapped new import Tony Bishop for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

All roads lead to Paris 2024 for Filipino athletes

As of the yearend, the Philippines has four qualified athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

As of the yearend, the Philippines has four qualified athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

After a busy year, all eyes are on the Filipinos competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics next year with four athletes already qualified to compete in the grandest stage. 

EJ Obiena, Carlos Yulo, and Eumir Marcial are making their return to the Olympics, while Aleah Finnegan will be making her debut after becoming the first Filipina gymnast to qualify in the Summer Games since 1964.

Yulo booked his second trip to the Olympics after an underwhelming finish in the 2020 Tokyo Games. He emerged as the highest-ranked in men’s floor exercise of the 2023 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Belgium.

Finnegan earned her ticket to Paris in the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship women’s all-around to become the first Filipina gymnast after Maria Luisa Floro and Evelyn Magluyan.

Obiena continued to reach greater heights this year as he cleared six meters twice this year to set his new personal best on top of two gold medals in the SEA Games and Asian Games and a historic silver medal in the World Athletics Championships pole vault event in Budapest, Hungary last August.

Marcial qualified through his silver medal in the Asian Games middleweight division. He made his debut in Tokyo and won bronze.

Naranjo, who delivered the first Olympic gold of the country in Tokyo, is looking to make her fifth appearance in the Summer Games, which could also be her last lift.

The weightlifting queen has moved up in weight from the women’s 55kg event to the 59kg class. 

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She placed seventh in the World Championship and fourth in both Asian Games and Asian Championships but her main focus is delivering another Olympic gold for the Philippines.

TAGS: 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup, 2024 Paris Olympics, Asian Games, Fiba World Cup, SEA Games

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