Haydee Coloso-Espino, the country’s top female swimmer of the 1950s, died on Thursday, August 12.
She was 83.
The three-time Asian Games gold medalist had been suffering from asthma and was confined at her home in Mandurriao, Iloilo after recovering from hospitalization in January 2020, her son Dwight said.
Although she remained frail after her hospitalization, Coloso-Espino liked to say that “she let her mind do the walking” as she became active on the messaging app Messenger.
Coloso-Espino won the gold medal in the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly in the 1954 Asian Games in Manila and led the 4x100m medley relay to the gold in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo.
All in all, she won 10 medals in the Asian Games: three golds, four silvers and three bronze medals in an Asiad stint that lasted until 1962.
Coloso-Espino also competed in the 1960 Olympics.
Statuesque, she was tagged the “Esther Williams of the Philippines” in 1953. Williams, one of the top US swimmers before World War II, became a famous actress in the 1950s.
But Coloso-Espino had more than looks.
A brief bio sketch said she competed in national meets at age 13 as part of the Iloilo City College team in 1950 and later set the national mark in the 100m freestyle.
Though few athletes embraced weight training, Coloso-Espino’s main attributes were her strong legs, said her son, developed through hours of swimming.
After Coloso-Espino retired in 1962, she settled down, raised her children, and taught physical education at Far Eastern University, Araullo High School, and Lyceum of the Philippines University.
“We did not know how famous she was. To us, she was mommy,” said Dwight.
She became a chaperone in regional age group swimming meets in the 1970s and future Asian Games bronze medalist Grace Justimbaste Gonzales remembers her as fun to be with.
She was a “very humble lady,” remembered Gonzales.
Espino was one of those who pushed for the benefits of former Olympians and Asian Games participants.
She was inducted into the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. – Rappler.com