Philippine tourism

Athletics: The sport that started it all

Jonathan Baldoza
While there are athletes like Rene Herrera and Marestella Torres who continue to be succesful in athletics, there is a need to further develop and better promote the sport in the country

MANILA, Philippines — Strength is the attribute commonly associated with sports, and perhaps, no other sport demonstrates one’s strength than athletics.

Athletics is a collection of competitions in running, throwing and jumping. It derives from the word “athos,” which in Greek means “contest.”

It is one of the first athletic competitions, withs roots tracing to as early as the prehistoric times. Ancient tombs in Egypt contain murals that depict people involved in running and high jump, while in Greece, records show that their people had already hosted a number of competitions that involved various events, including running.

Since then, a number of variations and rules has narrowed the sport, making it the sport that we know today.

Pinoy athletics

Did you know that the first ever Filipino representative in the Olympics was in athletics?

David Nepomuceno started the Filipino Olympic dream. In 1924, he was the lone Filipino athlete in the 1924 Paris Olympics. He competed in the 100m and 200m dash, but was unfortunate in getting a medal.

Simeon Toribio, who started competing in the Olympics in 1928, won the bronze medal in the high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. In the Far Eastern Games, he was also a consistent gold medalist, and was once hailed as “Asia’s greatest athlete.”

His feat in the Olympics was followed by a Filipino-American, Miguel White, who also won bronze in the Men’s 400 m hurdles in the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, Germany.

In the Asian Games, Andres Franco won a gold medal for the country in the high jump.

Women also proved to be impressive, with Visitacion Badana and Inocencia Solis winning gold medals, for the long jump and 100m dash event, respectively. In 1962, Mona Suleiman won three gold medals in the Asian Games that took place in Indonesia.

By the 80s and 90s, Filipinos still won medals, but started to disappear in the winners’ list. Medalists include Lydia de Vega, dubbed in the 80s as “Asia’s fastest woman,” Elma Muros, Isidro del Prado, and Hector Begeo.

Need for resurgence

While there are athletes like Rene Herrera and Marestella Torres who continue to be succesful in athletics, there is a need to further develop and better promote the sport in the country.

In the 2010 Asian Games, among the 592 athletes who took part in the competition, only 7 were Filipinos. That is a big contrast to the 70 athletes sent by China.

Although the sport is not entirely popular in the country, there have been simpler running events hosted by companies and advocacies group that may help fuel the interest in it.

Joboy Quintos, an athletics athlete himself, writes in his blog, “Each time I read about a promising provincial lad making waves in the Palarong Pambansa or see a bunch of kids exuberantly running laps around Ultra with their running-bug afflicted parents, the future of the sport looks bright. Perhaps some time in the not-too-distant future, a Filipino could once again stand on the coveted Olympic podium, this time with the ‘Lupang Hinirang’ proudly playing in the background.”

Currently, the Palarong Pambasa is hosting the following events in athletics: Triple Jump, Discus Throw, Long Jump, High Jump, Javelin Throw, 400-Meter Hurdles, 110-Meter Hurdles, 100-Meter Dash, 200-Meter Dash, 400-Meter Dash, Shot Put, 800-Meter Run, 1500-Meter Run, 4×100-Meter Relay and 4×400-Meter Relay.

The dream that was started by David Nepomuceno lives on — and perhaps, if athletes continue to train harder, the dream may one day be a reality. –