Win after win, medal after medal. Over the past few years, the Philippine sports industry has been breaking records and setting new standards, making its name known both locally and internationally. “I think we're in the Golden Age of Philippine sports,” says Olympian athlete EJ Obiena.
The success of many of our athletes in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics garnered the attention of many and put the Philippines in the spotlight in sports such as boxing and weight lifting. Hidilyn Diaz is the first ever gold-medalist in the Philippines and has broken the records in Olympic weightlifting. Boxers Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio brought home silver medals, Petecio being the first Filipina woman to do so. Carlo Paalam continues the legacy, winning a new gold medal in the Asian Boxing Confederation (ASBC) championships. The gymnastics sector has also gained recent popularity with World Champion Gymnast Carlos Yulo, who earned three gold medals in the 2022 Asian Gymnastics Championships, having the highest number of golds in the mens’ division. Ernest John (EJ) Obiena is also one of the rising stars in pole vaulting, winning his second consecutive gold in Gala dei Castelli while setting a new record in the tournament. So far, the athlete has placed first in six out of the eight competitions he joined and currently ranks third in the world. Obiena is currently setting his sights on a gold medal in the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics. Junna Tsukii, a Filipino-Japanese karateka has made history in the Philippine martial arts branch, being the first Filipina to win gold in the World Games and ranking fourth in the karate world. To add on to the numerous breakthroughs in Filipino sports, seventeen-year-old tennis player Alex Eala has become the highest ranked Filipina and Southeast Asian tennis player. Eala ranked second in the International Tennis Federation junior during 2020, and recently became the US Open junior champion.
Despite these hard-earned achievements, many athletes continue to struggle with one main thing: support from the country and the government. The Philippines severely lacks funds in the sports sector, especially when compared to other neighboring countries, says GMA News. The promised allowance and financial aid from the government is often long overdue and is not sufficient to cover both the training and livelihood expenses of these athletes. Athletes such as Hidilyn Diaz and boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno are among the many who have raised this issue regarding incentives and support, expressing their struggle to keep up their training and provide for basic needs. Such substandard performance on the government’s side leaves no choice for the athletes to rely on private sectors and sponsorship or donations from other individuals. Hidilyn Diaz shared her struggles in providing for herself during the Tokyo Olympics, which was met with backlash from the netizens and unsupportive comments, telling her to just stop her career since she doesn’t have enough funds anyway. To add fuel to the fire, the Duterte administration wrongly accused Diaz for plotting to overthrow the government as she admitted she was lacking in support and funds. As Diaz is preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympics, she mentions yet again the inadequate support from the government and requests for donations and assistance; however, history repeats itself once more. This call for help from Diaz was again met with haters and bashers. This problem may even force some to switch allegiances, such as famous chess player and grandmaster Wesley So, who decided to compete under the USA due to his incentives being withheld by the Philippine government. The insufficient amount of support given shows how the country fails our athletes.
Regardless of all the struggles and troubles in their journey, these athletes still strived to succeed and represent the country. The country may not have supported them enough; nonetheless, these athletes continue to believe in themselves and aspire to reach their goals, pursue their passion, and hone their skills. Many of the mentioned athletes weren’t able to bring home a medal during the previous Olympics; however, they have shown great improvement through hard work, allowing them to be rewarded in this year’s sport summits. Let us continue to support and be proud of our athletes as they prevail over their endeavors and continue to inspire the next generation.
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