Tokyo Olympics

Take a bow: Philippines’ golden campaign in the Tokyo Olympics

Beatrice Go

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Take a bow: Philippines’ golden campaign in the Tokyo Olympics
Relive the moments of the 19 Filipino athletes who saw action in the Tokyo Olympics and made the country proud

In a thrilling showcase of heart and hard work, the Philippines carved out its best Olympic campaign in the Tokyo Games.

The Philippines pulled off several historic feats led by weightlifting star Hidilyn Diaz winning the country’s first ever Olympic gold medal.

With the boxers also putting on a show, the Philippines brought home its all-time biggest Olympic medal haul to emerge as the best performing Southeast Asian country, while also crashing back into the top 50 in the medal tally after three decades. 

Relive the moments of the 19 Filipino athletes who saw action in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and made the country proud. 

Hidilyn Diaz, Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist
Hidilyn Diaz
GOLDEN GIRL. Hidilyn Diaz wins the country’s first Olympic gold medal.
Edgard Garrido/REUTERS

Three days into the Games, Hidilyn Diaz captured  the Philippines’ first ever Olympic gold medal as she ruled the women’s 55kg event of the weightlifting competition on Monday, July 26, at the Tokyo International Forum.

Diaz lifted 97kg in the snatch and set an Olympic record 127kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 224kg, also an Olympic record, to edge out world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China. 

The 30-year-old from Zamboanga also became the first Filipina athlete to win double Olympic medals as she paired her Tokyo gold with her 2016 Rio Olympic silver medal conquest.

As the country’s first Olympic gold winner, it was also the first time the Philippine national anthem was played during the awarding ceremonies, where an emotional Diaz proudly sang. 

Diaz then came home to an outpouring of rewards – with her cash incentive running at P55.5 million as of publication – for her historic feat.

Nesthy Petecio, first Filipina Olympic boxing medalist
HERSTORY. Nesthy Petecio makes history in the Olympics.

Nesthy Petecio again proved that she could shine on the big stage as she became the first Filipina boxer to win an Olympic medal

Petecio, the 2019 world champion boxer, made it to the gold-medal bout of the women’s boxing featherweight event, but fell to Japanese Sena Irie by unanimous decision to settle for a silver on Tuesday, August 3, at the Kokugikan Arena. 

Though some Filipino boxing officials and fans found the unanimous decision controversial, Petecio graciously accepted the silver on her maiden Olympic run.

For her historic run, Petecio was also chosen as the country’s flag bearer in the closing ceremony. 

The 29-year-old boxer is set to receive P24 million in cash from the government and business tycoons alongside other rewards like residential properties and free flights, but she made sure that her family will be the first to share her spoils. 

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Carlo Paalam, boxing men’s flyweight silver medalist
SCAVENGER TURNED OLYMPIAN. Carlo Paalam inspires many Filipinos with his story of hope, faith, and hard work.

Carlo Paalam proved that the future is bright not only for the country’s boxing scene, but also for those trying to turn their lives around. 

Paalam – who inspired many with his story of hope as he worked his way up from being a scavenger to becoming an Olympian – copped the men’s flyweight silver medal on Saturday, August 7, at the Kokugikan Arena. 

The 23-year-old boxer from Cagayan de Oro fell to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai via split decision, 4-1, in the final and was the last Filipino athlete to cop a medal in the Tokyo Games. 

Paalam was given the toughest draw but overcame all odds – beating a couple of two-time Olympians, before stunning 2016 Rio Olympics champion and flyweight world No. 1 Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinal, and home bet Ryomei Tanaka in the semifinal.

The youngest boxer in the delegation also touched the hearts of many Filipinos when he received the silver medal, which is made out of recycled electronic gadgets. Paalam turned emotional, noting how symbolic it turned out as he used to collect metal scraps. 

Eumir Marcial, boxing men’s middleweight bronze medalist
TOP BOXER. Eumir Marcial is considered as one of the country’s top boxers.
Ueslei Marcelino

Eumir Marcial picked up a bronze medal in the men’s middleweight event after falling to Ukrainian Oleksandr Khyzhniak in the semifinal on Thursday, August 5, at the Kokugikan Arena. 

Marcial fell short by split decision, 3-2, in a tight slugfest against the European champion after an impressive start to his Olympic campaign.  

The 25-year-old from Zamboanga, who earned a bye in the first round by virtue of his ranking, put on a show in the big stage early as he made quick work of his first two foes to punch a berth into the medal round. 

Marcial also had the honor of carrying the Philippine flag during the opening ceremony.

Irish Magno, boxing women’s flyweight
ROUND OF 16. Irish Magno bows to familiar foe Jutamas Jitpong.

Irish Magno, the first Filipina boxer to qualify for the Olympics, exited in the round of 16 of the women’s flyweight event on Thursday, July 29, at the Kokugikan Arena.

Magno fell to Thai Jutamas Jitpong, who exacted revenge after losing to the Filipino in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games semifinals via unanimous decision. 

The 29-year-old from Iloilo had a strong start to her Tokyo Olympics campaign, overpowering Kenya’s Christine Ongare with a unanimous decision win in the round of 32.

Carlos Yulo, artistic gymnastics
Carlos YuloM
WORLD-CLASS. Carlos Yulo qualifies to the final round of the vault event.
Mike Blake/REUTERS

World champion gymnast Carlos Yulo narrowly missed a podium finish in the men’s vault final – the lone event he qualified for in the Olympic gymnastics event. 

Yulo nailed a final score of 14.716, falling short of a fraction of a point at 0.017 from bronze medalist Artur Davtyan of Armenia on Monday, August 2, at the Ariake Gymnastics Center.

The 4-foot-11 dynamo recorded a 14.566 in his first attempt after drawing a -0.1 penalty for his landing, but he rebounded with a 14.866 in the second attempt to pull up the average score.

The Filipino’s second attempt was the second highest score among all attempts behind Tunisia’s Adem Asil’s performance that recorded 15.266.

Yulo had hoped to qualify for his pet floor exercise event where he won the 2019 world championship gold, but after scoring only 13.566, he finished 44th overall in the qualifying event. 

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Margielyn Didal, women’s street skateboarding
POSITIVITY. Margielyn Didal brings in the happy vibes to the Tokyo Olympics.

Margielyn Didal left the Olympics without a medal, but she left a lasting mood of positivity. 

The 2018 Asian Games gold medalist flashed her skateboarding prowess when she cracked into the top eight to advance to the women’s street final, despite entering the competition ranked No. 17 out of the 20-woman field. 

In the final, the Cebuana skateboarder ended her Olympic campaign at seventh place after tallying a total of 7.52 from scores on the run phase and the tricks event on Monday, July 26, at the Ariake Urban Skate park. 

Though she picked up an injury in the first of the five trick section rounds, Didal pushed on and kept coming back up smiling whenever she fell. 

She also cheered on her young competitors, like 13-year-olds Momiji Nishiya of Japan, who ruled the competition, and Brazil’s Rayssa Leal, who bagged the silver, and 16-year-old Japanese Funa Nakayama, who took home the bronze.

She was also the first to give Leal a hug after the 13-year-old Brazilian star’s last trick attempt gave her the Olympic silver.

Take a bow: Philippines’ golden campaign in the Tokyo Olympics
EJ Obiena, athletics men’s pole vault
EJ Obiena
WORLD’S BEST. EJ Obiena enters the competition ranked world No. 6.
Aleksandra Szmigiel/REUTERS

EJ Obiena ended his Olympic campaign at 11th place in the men’s pole vault final event ruled by Sweden’s Armand Duplantis on Tuesday, August 3, at the Olympic stadium.

Obiena failed to crash into the top 10 of the final after failing to clear 5.80 meters in three attempts.

The Filipino pole vaulter, though, took a stand as he protested his third attempt by sending out a complaint to field officials that the bar was moving while the clock was running.

Obiena, the only Asian in the final, also inspired Filipinos with his desire to win and made a promise that he would be back to achieve that goal. 

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Yuka Saso, women’s golf
Yuka Saso
TOP TEN. Yuka Saso rallies to crash into the top 10 of the women’s golf tournament.
Murad Sezer/REUTERS

Reigning US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso pulled off a stunning performance as she staged a huge comeback from an opening-round 47th place to a joint ninth ranking in the final round of the women’s golf event on Saturday, August 7, at the Kasumigaseki Golf and Country Club. 

Saso finished the tournament with a 10-under par 274, seven strokes away from gold medalist Nelly Korda of the US, after hitting a 65 that was highlighted by three straight birdies starting in the 12th hole, and an eagle in the 17th. 

Saso, the youngest in the Philippine delegation, rebounded from an initial setback when her regular caddie Lionel Matichuk was rushed to a hospital after suffering from heat stroke in a practice round before she opened her campaign. 

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Saso requested national coach Miggy Alejandro to fill in for the Canadian caddie, who was vital to her US Open and Japan Ladies Professional Golfers Association titles in 2020. 

After her Tokyo Olympics stint, Saso rose to tie her career-best world No. 8 ranking.

Bianca Pagdanganan, women’s golf
Bianca Pagdanganan
POWER PLAYER. Bianca Pagdanganan relies on her driving distance during her tournaments.
Toby Melville/REUTERS

Bianca Pagdanganan had an impressive start to her Tokyo Olympics campaign as she notched a joint seventh standing at the end of the opening round. 

But the 23-year-old power player failed to sustain her momentum as she finished the women’s golf event at joint 43rd and tallied one-over par 285 at the end of four rounds.

After the tournament, Pagdanganan said she was grateful for the opportunity to represent the Philippines in the Olympics and reminded herself that she once dreamt to just be where she is now.

Juvic Pagunsan, men’s golf
Juvic Pagunsan
VETERAN. Juvic Pagunsan is the oldest in the Philippine delegation at 43.
Toby Melville/REUTERS

Like Pagdanganan, veteran golfer Juvic Pagunsan gave the Philippines high hopes when he opened the first round at joint fifth on Thursday, July 29, in the men’s golf event. 

But the Bacolod native wrapped up his bid at joint 55th even after closing with a better showing in the final round with a one-under par 70 for a total of one-over par 285. 

Pagunsan, the oldest in the Philippine delegation at 43 years old, headed into the Games off a title romp in the 2021 Mizuno Open in Japan. 

Elreen Ando, weightlifting women’s 64kg
Elreen Ando
NEW BLOOD. Elreen Ando sets a Philippine record in the women’s 64kg.
Edgard Garrido/REUTERS

Elreen Ando ended her maiden Olympic stint at seventh place in the women’s 64kg weightlifting event on Tuesday, July 27, at the Tokyo International Forum.

The 22-year-old Cebuana recorded 100kg in the snatch and 122kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 222kg.

Ando, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Philippine weightlifting queen Hidilyn Diaz, set the Philippine record with her lifts in the quadrennial meet.

Luke Gebbie, swimming 100m, 50m freestyle
PHILIPPINE RECORD. Luke Gebbie is on the rise with a new national record in the men’s 100m freestyle.
Philippine Swimming Inc

Philippine swimmer Luke Gebbie made waves as he reset the men’s 100m freestyle national record, clocking 49.64 seconds in the heats on Tuesday, July 27, at the Tokyo Aquatics Center. 

He eclipsed his time of 49.94s that was set during the 2019 FINA World Championships.

Gebbie also topped Singapore swimming star Joseph Schooling in the heats, and matched the 2016 Rio 100m butterfly champion’s silver medal-winning mark in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

The Fil-Kiwi also saw action in the men’s 50m freestyle, where he clocked 22.84 seconds to finish first in the heat on Friday, July 30. 

But he failed to advance to the semifinals of both highly competitive freestyle events as he finished 39th in the 100m and 41st overall in the 50m. 

Remedy Rule, swimming 100m, 200m butterfly
Remedy Rule
SWIMMING QUEEN. Remedy Rule makes it to the semifinals of the women’s 200m butterfly.
Lani Velasco/Philippine Swimming Inc

Remedy Rule highlighted Philippine swimming’s Tokyo Olympics campaign when she advanced to the women’s 200m butterfly semifinal featuring only the top 16 swimmers of the event.

In the semifinal, Rule clocked 2 minutes and 12.89 seconds in the second heat of her pet event for a 15th place finish overall.

The Filipino-American also opened the country’s campaign in the Olympic aquatics competition in the 100m butterfly where she clocked 59.68 seconds to finish 25th overall. 

Cris Nievarez, rowing men’s single sculls
DEBUT. Cris Nievarez impresses as the only Southeast Asian qualifier.

Cris Nievarez wrapped up his maiden Olympic campaign at 23rd place overall in the rowing competition’s men’s single sculls event on Friday, July 30, at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Nievarez clocked his best time of 7 minutes and 21.28 seconds in the Games for a fifth place finish in the classification final D.

This surpassed his Olympic debut time of 7:22.97 in the preliminary round that clinched him a quarterfinal berth, when he opened the country’s Tokyo campaign on Friday, July 23.

The 21-year-old from Atimonan, Quezon missed his medal chance when he failed to advance to the semifinal A/B during his quarterfinal run.

The first-time Olympian was the only Southeast Asian qualifier in the men’s singles sculls.


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Cris Nievarez

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Cris Nievarez
Kurt Barbosa, taekwondo men’s -58kg
MEDAL HOPES. Kurt Barbosa aimed to advance to the medal round.

Taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa had hoped for a chance in the medal round even after he was booted out in the opener by No. 1 seed Jang Jun of South Korea in the men’s -58kg event on Saturday, July 24, at the Makuhari Messe Hall. 

Barbosa opened his campaign with a 26-6 loss to Jang, but he could have advanced to the repechage round for a chance at an Olympic bronze had the South Korean clinched a final berth. 

However, Jang suffered an upset loss, 19-25, to No. 12 seed Tunisia’s Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi in the semifinal.

With the result, Barbosa became the first Filipino to bow out of the Tokyo Olympics. 


[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Kurt Barbosa

[PODCAST] Targeting Tokyo: Kurt Barbosa
Kristina Knott, athletics women’s 200m run
RECORD HOLDER. Kristina Knott holds the Philippine record in the women’s sprint events.

Kristina Knott had hoped to record her best time in the Olympics’ centerpiece tournament. 

But due to the blazing heat of the Tokyo summer, the country’s record holder in the women’s 200m struggled and was brought to the medical station right after crossing the finish line nauseous.

Knott failed to qualify for the semis after clocking 23.80 seconds to finish fifth and last in heat 7 of the women’s 200m run on Monday, August 2, at the Olympic Stadium. 

Only the top three sprinters of each heat and the next three fastest from across the seven heats advanced in the 24-field semifinal.


Kiyomi Watanabe, judo women’s -63kg
Kiyomi Watanabe
SHOCK LOSS. Kiyomi Watanabe suffers from a heartbreaking loss in the opening round.
Annegret Hilse/REUTERS

Kiyomi Watanabe’s Olympic campaign came to a sudden end after falling prey to world No. 37 Cristina Cabana Perez of Spain in the women’s -63kg event on Tuesday, July 27, at the Nippon Budokan.

Cabana Perez won via ippon in the first 38 seconds of the round of 32 to knock the Filipino-Japanese out of the quadrennial meet.

Watanabe, who entered the tournament ranked No. 41 in the world, was left in tears as the Spaniard proceeded to the round of 16.

Before the competition, the four-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist had the honor of serving as the country’s flag bearer together with boxer Marcial during the opening ceremony. 

Jayson Valdez, shooting men’s 10m air rifle
Jayson Valdez
OLYMPIC DREAM. Jayson Valdez dreamt of making it to the Olympics.
Asics Philippines

Jayson Valdez missed the top eight cut for the men’s 10m air rifle final on Sunday, July 25, at the Asaka Shooting Range.

He placed 44th out of 47 in the men’s 10m air rifle qualification round.

The Filipino shooter tallied a total of 612.6 and averaged 102.1 after recording 101.3 points in the first round, 100.5 in the second, 101.6 in the third, 103.6 points in the fourth, 103.5 in the fifth, and 102.1 in the sixth and final round.

In the men’s 10m air rifle qualification event, an athlete has to shoot 60 shots in 75 minutes. –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.