THE glaring yet bitter reality is that the Philippines has not won an Olympic gold medal since competing in the prestigious Summer Games in 1924.
Now it has been close to 20 years since the country last won a medal in the Olympics – the last one, a silver, courtesy of diminutive boxer Mansueto Velasco in 1996 in Atlanta.
So in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Philippine amateur boxing will surely be the key again to ending the country’s long-running search for the elusive Olympic gold.
Consider this. In the aftermath of the Filipinos’ golden show in the previous Southeast Asian Games in Singapore where all 10 boxers sent in brought home medals (five gold, three silver, two bronze medals), the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) is now making sure that there will be no stone left unturned as they start their preparations to give the country another Olympic medal or medals. And they are going for the gold.
The Philippines will try to qualify as many boxers to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and then make sure everything is done to increase the chances of winning.
Indeed, it is high time for the country to end the jinx in the world’s biggest sporting conclave.
For the record, the Philippines’ highest treasure are two silver medals from boxing, courtesy of Anthony Villanueva in the 1960 Tokyo Olympics and Velasco in Atlanta.
And based on solid empirical data, the country has so far claimed nine medals in the Olympics, five of them are from boxing.
Jose Villanueva won bronze in the1932 Los Angeles Games, Anthony Villanueva won silver in 1964 in Tokyo, Leopoldo Serrantes won bronze in 1988 in Seoul, Roel Velasco won bronze in 1992 in Barcelona and Mansueto Velasco won silver in Atlanta.
Obviously, our boxers are so close to achieving the ultimate goal of ending the country’s search for that elusive gold medal.
Unfortunately, after Velasco’s silver medal-finish, it was all downhill. Filipino boxers have failed to make a podium finish and have gone home with fat eggs from the quadrennial Games.
In fact, in the last London edition, and for the fourth Olympics in a row, Filipino athletes were unable to take home a medal of any color for the country.
But still, the record should be enough proof that if and when the country finally gets around to win the gold medal, it would come from the Filipino fist. In other words, boxing has the most realistic shot at the Olympic gold.
And so if the country really intends to turn that into reality in the coming Rio Olympics, the sport should receive all the help it can get, from the government and private sector.
It should see to it that the leadership of the ABAP come up with a sustained grassroots development program for amateur boxing, which involves hiring a foreign coach, maintaining a pool of 43 fighters, including 11 women, and rigid training for the Olympic qualifiers starting with the World Championships for men in Doha on Oct. 5-18. That would surely ensure the highest caliber of training for boxers. This must guarantee the athletes’ constant exposure to local, regional and international competitions.
In particular, the government must make the pursuit of amateur boxing more financially rewarding to attract new talents to the sport. The reason why many talented amateur boxers are eager to turn professional is because professional boxing is more financially lucrative than its amateur counterpart.
So between now and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, it will take a solid program, knowledge, talent and dedication to achieve the most cherished dream of Philippine sports which is to win its very first Olympic gold medal.