2021 was a rollercoaster of a year for Filipino athletes. There have been major wins and devastating losses, much like all sports. Our champions had to deal with not only the pressure of their chosen discipline, but with the threat of the pandemic still looming overhead. Despite all this, one this is certain – 2021 is still quite the year for our athletes.
To start with this year-in-review for PH sports, we need to begin with our greatest achievement this year: Olympic Gold.
2021 is the Year We Broke All Records
Our quest for Olympic Gold has decades of history. It dates way back to the first time we joined the games – the 1924 Paris Olympics. 97 years later, in 2021, the Philippines’ quest for Olympic Gold was finally fulfilled, with Hidilyn Diaz at the helm.
The showing of our other Filipino athletes during Tokyo 2020 was also astounding. We took home 4 medals this year, breaking our previous record of 3 medals in 1932. In addition to Hidilyn taking home the gold in women’s weightlifting, three other Filipino boxers landed the elusive podium finish. Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam took home silvers for their respective divisions. Eumir Marcial also took home a bronze.
We nearly had a fifth medal this year, as all bets were on for gymnastics wunderkind Carlos Yulo. Coming fresh from his 2019 success in the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, all eyes were on him to bring us the OIympic Gold.
Yulo missed a podium finish in this year’s Olympics, but his determination seems unwavering. He is the first Filipino to win multiple medals in the Gymnastics World Championships as he again took the top spot this year. He is pushing for another shot at redemption in the 2024 Paris Olympic – a full century since we joined.
New Possibilities for Other Filipino Athletes
In an unfortunate turn of events, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) earlier this month declared that boxing, weightlifting, and modern pentathlon will no longer be part of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. This is quite the blow to Filipino athletes following our stellar performance in the first two sports this year.
Despite this, we should not lose hope in future Olympic games. Those events are still part of the 2024 Paris Olympics. This gives our boxers and weightlifters one last shot of taking home the gold. In addition, the events that replaced them are still ripe for the taking. Taking the place of those three sports above are skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. And true to the adage that when one door closes, another opens, there are quite a few Filipinos making waves in those events.
Filipina skateboarder Margielyn Didal had the whole world enraptured as her cheery demeanor was a highlight of the Tokyo 2020 appearance. Filipino surfers and climbers also have a chance to go for gold, as this news would have probably gotten them more excited to vie for future Olympic bids.
The future is shaping up to be even more exciting for Filipino athletes. Coinciding with our Olympic success, 2021 also marks the year that the National Academy of Sports (NAS) finally opened its doors to the first batch of our student-athletes. Providing a holistic approach to training our future athletes, this batch has already started online classes. Construction of the NAS is well under way, and if the timelines are met, our student-athletes can expect to start moving into face-to-face classes as early as February 2022.
In addition, 2021 was also a big year for Esports. A local university started to offer an official 4-year BS Esports course. This now makes it a viable career path much like traditional sports. Filipino Esports athletes won’t need to wait for a scholarship abroad just to pursue it professionally.
These two institutions are exactly what our Filipino athletes need. They provide a place where our future champions could hone their skills and build discipline in order to achieve greatness. This is the exact hope that we had when we wrote earlier this year that Philippine sports, and the Filipino athlete, is a worthy investment. As 2021 comes to an end, everything is now set. The brilliance and resilience of our athletes now have all the room to shine!