[Yearender] Why weightlifters became big hits in 2015 for PHL sports

 

MANILA—Who cheers for less marketable sports such as weightlifting and wushu? Almost none, not unless cheerers in these sports are either national athletes’ teammates, family members or friends.

Hidilyn Diaz displays the winning form that gave her the overall bronze medal in the women's 53 kg. class at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston, Texas, USA last November. If she gets qualified for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympic Games improves her lifts, Diaz might bring home the country's first Olympic medal in two decades. (photo from the International Weightlifting Federation)

Hidilyn Diaz displays the winning form that gave her the overall bronze medal in the women’s 53 kg. class at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston, Texas, USA last November. If she gets qualified for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympic Games improves her lifts, Diaz might bring home the country’s first Olympic medal in two decades. (photo from the International Weightlifting Federation)

But less known to many Filipinos, Philippine weightlifting’s surprising performances in top tournaments and the national wushu team’s productive rebuilding process led to a surprisingly bountiful 2015 for Philippine sports.

The year 2015 will be marked by the less-recognized feats of the country’s top lifters and wushu artists. For one sport, the Philippines remains among the countries usually winning medals —including gold medals— at the World Championships. For another sport, a first set of medals at the annual world championships in over four decades gives hopes for 2016, an Olympic year.

Yes, professional bantamweight boxer Nonito Donaire ended 2015 with the regaining of a world title and Hall of Famer and welterweight Manny Pacquiao marked the year with a battle for the ages against the sport’s “greatest of all time,” Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Pacquiao afterwards admitted being injured before the fight, and lawsuits at both legendary boxers and their promoters spoiled the impact of what is a fight of the century.

Yes, the national basketball team won its second straight silver medal and the FIBA Asia Championships. Gilas Pilipinas formed a rag-tag team with elders in its roster and with limited preparations, yet it finally beat Iran. The Philippines though lost to a rebuilding Chinese team in the gold medal match.

However, the feats of weightlifting and wushu provide implications as to the global competitiveness of the Philippines in these sports. And with the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics months away, a nation continues to hope that a medal is worn on a Filipino athlete two decades hence.

 

Number 1 sports feat

Medals at World Weightlifting Championships carry PHL Olympic hopes

For the first time in over four decades, the Philippines has won medals at the annual World Weightlifting Championships especially since both men’s and women’s events were staged under one championship edition since 1991.

Houston, Texas, USA will forever be etched in stone as the site of the World Championships where the Philippines, last Nov. 14-18, won four bronze medals.

Zamboanga City native and two-time Olympian Hidilyn Diaz made her best showing yet in an international competition. She won the bronze in the 53 kg. class given a total lift of 213 kgs. In the individual snatch and clean and jerk competition lifts, Diaz also placed third (96 kgs. and 117 kgs., respectively) to bring home three bronze medals.

Taipei’s Hsu Shu-Ching won the 53 kg. overall gold medal over Chen Xiaoting of China in Houston.

Diaz’s 213 kg.-total lift in Houston was not her best lift —her best being 219 kgs. hoisted at the 2013 Philippine National Games. Diaz lifted a total of 214 kgs. en route to winning the gold medal at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Qatar (a tournament in which Hsu and Chen did not compete).

Not to be outdone is Diaz’s townmate Nestor Colonia. He placed fourth overall in the men’s 56 kg. class with a 282

Nestor Colonia won the Philippines' other medal, a bronze in the men's 56 kg. clean and jerk competition lift,  at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships. Like Hidilyn Diaz, Colonia is ranked fourth in the world. Improved lifts can also make Colonia a legitimate Filipino Olympic medal prospect for Rio 2016 (photo from the International Weightlifting Federation)

Nestor Colonia won the Philippines’ other medal, a bronze in the men’s 56 kg. clean and jerk competition lift, at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships. Like Hidilyn Diaz, Colonia is ranked fourth in the world. Improved lifts can also make Colonia a legitimate Filipino Olympic medal prospect for Rio 2016 (photo from the International Weightlifting Federation)

kg. total lift. But Colonia’s 158 kg. clean and jerk lift was enough for a bronze in the said competition lift.

Colonia’s fourth-place overall finish is a big improvement from his 13th place showing at the 2011 World Championships (256 kg.).

The International Weightlifting Federation’s year-end world rankings list based on lifters’ best total lifts showed that Colonia and Diaz are ranked fourth in the world.

The official qualifiers to the 2016 Olympics have yet to be named (given two other tournaments in 2016). But Diaz and Colonia not only have a chance of making it. Should they proceed to Rio, Diaz and Colonia are the Philippines’ best chances of landing a medal in Rio, being the highest-ranked Filipinos in the world rankings of today’s Olympic sports.

Diaz’s fame started when, at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, then 17-year-old Diaz placed 11th. At the 2012 London Olympiad, Diaz did not complete her clean and jerk lift and did not finish the competition. Colonia is yet to qualify in the Olympics.

But never has the Philippines, whose national weightlifting federation is much under-supported, enjoyed a podium finish at the world championships. In the Olympic Games, the best Philippine finish was achieved by then 35-year-old Rodrigo del Rosario, placing fourth at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. It was also at the 1952 Games that del Rosario set an Olympic record in the old competition lift called military press, lifting 105 kg.

he second best finishes of the Philippines in the Olympics were by del Rosario (fifth, featherweight class, 1948 London Olympics) and Pedro Landero (sixth, bantamweight class, 1952 Helsinki Games).

Salvador del Rosario, Rodrigo’s nephew, won a gold in the featherweight class in 1970 World Men’s Weightlifting Championships after the medalists in his weight class were stripped of their medals because of illegal substance use.

But the feats at Houston come at a time the Philippine Weightlifting Association continues to face meager resources. Its current set of equipment was even courtesy of donations from the Hungary-headquartered International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) in 2013.

PWA’s former president, former Congressman and current Bacolod City Mayor Monico Puentevella, even got a letter from the Commission on Audit in March 4, 2009 (says a Visayan Daily Star report) that he had some 50.5 million in unliquidated funds—including some P1,615,105 for “weightlifting facilities and activities.”

 

Number 2 sports feat

Rookies surprise gold winners at World Wushu Championships

Philippine team medalists at the 2015 World Wushu Championships last November in Jakarta, Indonesia. College standouts and world championships rookies Divine Wally (19) and Arnel Mandal (20) won the country's gold medals. (photo taken from the Facebook account of silver medalist Hergie Bacyadan)

Philippine team medalists at the 2015 World Wushu Championships last November in Jakarta, Indonesia. College standouts and world championships rookies Divine Wally (19) and Arnel Mandal (20) won the country’s gold medals. (photo taken from the Facebook account of silver medalist Hergie Bacyadan)

Two college students who are rookies at the World Wushu Championships won gold medals in their respective events, elating a Philippine team that its national wushu federation president said is being rebuilt from the ground up.

(Wushu is also known as kungfu and is the collective term for martial arts practices that originated in China. Its two main categories of events are taolu [the routine practice component of wushu] and sanda [unarmed combat]).

Nineteen-year-old Divine Wally of Baguio City won a sanda gold in the women’s 48 kg. class by beating Luan Thi Hoang of Vietnam, 2-0 in the final. For his part, Arnel Mandal of Iloilo City won over Uchit Sharma of India, 2-1 in the finals of the men’s 52 kg. sanda event.

In talou’s compulsory taijiquan event for women, Agatha Chrystenze Fernandez won a silver medal behind Lu Yi Chan of Malaysia. In sanda, Kalinga province’s Hergie Bacyadan lost to Iranian Shahrbano Mansyourann Semiromi in the women’s 65 kg. class. In the men’s 60 kg. class in sanda, Francisco Solis to lost to eventual champion Hong Xing Kong in the semifinals to earn a bronze medal.

Wally and Mandal thus becomes part of a roster of 12 gold medalists for the Philippines in this biennial World Wushu Championships. From 1997 to 2015, the Philippines had won 12 golds, 13 silvers and 21 bronzes at the World Wushu Championships —making wushu a perennial Philippine medal hopeful in world-level competitions.

Over the same 18-year period, the Philippines is ninth in the overall medal table. Unfortunately, wushu is not an Olympic sport.

The five-medal feat at this year’s World Wushu Championships, held last November in Jakarta, Indonesia, came as a surprise for the national federation. Wushu Federation of the Philippines President Julian Camacho said the Philippines is rebuilding its national team from scratch.

Mandal’s feat also comes as a surprise since his best finish is winning gold at the Philippine National Games.

 

Number 3 sports feat

Nonito Donaire’s new world title

Nonito Donaire survived cramps and a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Cesar Juarez of Mexico to win the vacant World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title last Dec. 11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo by Top Rank)

Nonito Donaire survived cramps and a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Cesar Juarez of Mexico to win the vacant World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title last Dec. 11 in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo by Top Rank)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. 

May 2, 2015 was the day when two phenomenal boxers, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, brandished boxing’s post-modern era in a big-time fight. Mayweather won, but the global thrill that these boxers’ phenomenal talents had created is about to end (Photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

May 2, 2015 was the day when two phenomenal boxers, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, brandished boxing’s post-modern era in a big-time fight. Mayweather won, but the global thrill that these boxers’ phenomenal talents had created is about to end (Photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number 4 sports feat

Gilas Pilipinas squad’s silver medal finish at the FIBA Asia Championships

Ranidel de Ocampo tries to score over young Chinese center Zhou Qi (photo from FIBA Asia)

Ranidel de Ocampo tries to score over young Chinese center Zhou Qi (photo from FIBA Asia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Number 5 sports feat

Rogen Ladon’s lightflyweight bronze medal at the World Amateur Boxing Championships —the Philippines’s first medal at the worlds since 2007

Lightflyweight Rogen Ladon, shown here in a file photo of his win over Joselito Altamirano of Mexico, brings home a bronze medal for the Philippines at the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha, Qatar (photo from AIBA.com)

Lightflyweight Rogen Ladon, shown here in a file photo of his win over Joselito Altamirano of Mexico, brings home a bronze medal for the Philippines at the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha, Qatar (photo from AIBA.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO