MEET: 19 Filipinos campaigning for Philippines’ 1st Olympic Gold in Tokyo

19 Filipinos campaigning Philippines 1st Olympic Gold
19 Filipino Olympians will carry the Philippines’ campaign in the Tokyo Olympics. Photos from official events’ pages and athletes’ socials.

Meet the 19-strong Philippines’ national contingent boosting the country’s chances of winning its first Olympic gold medal in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, which officially kicks off on Friday, July 23 until August 8, 2021.

Filipino athletes in the quadrennial games include pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, boxers Nesthy PetecioCarlo PaalamIrish Magno and Eumir Felix Marcial, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, rower Cris Nievarez, weightlifters Hidilyn Diaz and Elreen Ando, shooter Jayson Valdez, and Judo champion Kiyomi Watanabe.

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Sprinter Kristina Knott, golfers Juvic PagunsanYuka Saso, and Bianca Pagdanganan, and swimmers Luke Michael Gebbie and Remedy Alexis Rule complete the country’s delegation for the Summer Games in Japan.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will feature a record 33 competitions and 339 events held across 42 competition venues in Japan. The international multi-sport event will also host the largest number of Philippine delegates since the 2000 Sydney games.

The Philippines has earned 10 medals at the Olympics since it first joined in 1924 comprising of 3 silver medals and 7 bronze medals.

Get to know the Filipino athletes representing Team Philippines at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

EJ OBIENA (Pole Vault/Athletics)

Ernest John “EJ” Obiena hopes to make the nation proud as the first Filipino athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Asian pole vault champion has demonstrated that he is in peak condition for his Olympic debut in Tokyo by competing and winning against Olympic champions while resetting the Philippines’ national record twice, weeks ahead of the quadrennial meet.

In 2019, EJ cleared 5.81 meters in an outdoor pole-vaulting tournament in Italy to become the first Olympic qualifier of the Philippines to the 32nd Summer Olympic Games in Japan.

The Thomasian track and field athlete has been training in Italy in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will now compete in the quadrennial Games against the world’s best pole vaulters.

KRISTINA KNOTT (Sprint/Athletics)

Sprinter Kristina Knott is the Philippines’ national record holder for both the 100-meters and 200-meter events.

Knott’s historic run in the 30th Southeast Asian Games captured the gold in the women’s 200-meter dash with a record time of 23.01 seconds. She broke the national record at 23.35 seconds which was held previously by Lydia de Vega for 33 years.

Last year, the University of Miami standout smashed another 33-year-old Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) record, this time in the 100-meter dash after clocking in 11.27 seconds at the 2020 Drake Blue Oval Showcase in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Philippines’ sprint queen earned her spot at the Tokyo Olympics after being awarded a universality place in the women’s 200 meters.

The Fil-Am trackster is the second representative of the Philippines in the athletics competition of the Games alongside Asia’s top pole vaulter EJ Obiena.

CARLOS YULO (Gymnastics)

Carlos Edriel Yulo is one of the brightest Olympic Gold medal hopes of the Philippines at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The 21-year-old became the first Filipino to conquer the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships after winning the men’s floor exercise gold in 2019.

In the same year, Carlos Yulo also emerged as the country’s most bemedalled athlete at the 30th SEA Games, where he bagged two golds and five silver medals.

The world champion gymnast became the second Filipino athlete to book a slot for the Olympics behind pole vaulter EJ Obiena.

EUMIR MARCIAL (Boxing)

Eumir Felix Marcial heads to the quadrennial Games in the hopes of fulfilling the Philippines’ Olympic dream of winning its first gold medal in the quadrennial games.

Marcial trained under legendary coach Freddie Roach at the Hollywood-based Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. He will compete in the middleweight division of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships silver medalist punched his ticket to the Summer Games in Japan after winning his middleweight bout at the Asia Oceania Olympic Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan last year.

The professional boxer is the 3rd Filipino athlete to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics behind pole vaulter EJ Obiena and gymnast Carlos Yulo.

Marcial will replace Obiena as the Philippines’ male flagbearer in the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony after the Asian pole vault champion had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts in the Games.

IRISH MAGNO (Boxing)

Irish Magno is the first-ever Filipina boxer to punch a ticket for the Olympics.

The boxer has collected medals for the Philippines in three out of four editions of the SEA Games, including a bronze medal in bantamweight in 2013, as well as flyweight medals in 2015 and 2019.

Magno, who hails from Janiuay, Iloilo, will represent the country in the women’s flyweight division in the Summer Games in Japan.

NESTHY PETECIO (Boxing)

Nesthy Petecio is the second Filipina boxer to become a world champion, after Josie Gabuco in 2012.

Petecio has represented the Philippines in four editions of the SEA Games, winning a total of one gold and three silver medals. She won the featherweight division of the 2019 Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) Women’s World Boxing Championships.

Nesthy Petecio is the second Filipina boxer to qualify for the Olympics with Irish Magno where she will compete in the women’s featherweight division.

CARLO PAALAM (Boxing)

Carlo Paalam, one of the Philippines’ four boxers eyeing to end the country’s search for its first Olympic gold medal, has come a long way from his humble beginnings.

The Filipino Tokyo Olympics qualifier used to pick garbage in a city landfill before being eventually discovered by talent scouts for boxing.

Paalam, who will compete in the men’s flyweight division of the Tokyo Summer Games, won 3 golds for the Philippines with Eumir Felix Marcial and Nesthy Petecio in the Korotkov Memorial Boxing Championships in Khabarovsk, Russia in 2018.

HIDILYN DIAZ (Weightlifting)

Hidilyn Diaz has represented the Philippines at the last three Olympics. She won silver in the women’s 53-kg weightlifting division of the 2016 Rio de
Janeiro Games, ending the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought.

The Filipina champion weightlifter continues to seek glory for the nation, qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics after her strong finish at the 2021 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Uzbekistan.

Diaz also earned gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games, the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, and the 2020 Roma Weightlifting World Cup on her way to booking a trip to the quadrennial meet.

The Zamboanga City native makes her fourth straight appearance in the Games, the first of which was in Beijing (2008) and London (2012) before her silver-winning performance at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

ELREEN ANDO (Weightlifting)

Elreen Ann Ando is poised to become one of the future weightlifting stars in the Philippines.

The Filipina weightlifter booked an Olympic berth by earning a continental allocation and emerging as the highest-ranked athlete in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) ranking for the women’s 64kg event in Asia.

Ando captured two silvers and a bronze medal in the 2021 Asian Weightlifting Championships.

Elreen Ando is the Philippines’ second representative in weightlifting to the Summer Games in Tokyo behind 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz.

CRIS NIEVAREZ (Rowing)

Cris Nievarez will be the first Filipino athlete in the Philippine team to see action in the Tokyo Olympics as the rowing competition kicks off on July 23 at the Sea Forest Waterway.

The national athlete from Quezon earned a spot for the Summer Olympics after participating in the Asia & Oceania Olympic & Paralympic Qualification Regatta held in Tokyo which wrapped up in May.

Nievarez’s qualification is the first time in 20 years that a Filipino rower qualified for the Olympics after Benjie Tolentino qualified for the 2000 Sydney edition.

JAYSON VALDEZ (Shooting)

Jayson Valdez, son of three-time Southeast Asian Games champion Julius Valdez, is set to represent the Philippines in the air rifle 10-meter event of the Tokyo Olympics.

The 25-year-old athlete qualified for the Summer Games in Japan through the quota system by the Munich-based International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF).

Valdez will be the first Filipino shooter to compete in the Olympics since Paul Rosario competed in the men’s skeet event at the 2012 London Olympics.

MARGIELYN DIDAL (Skateboarding)

Margielyn “Margie” Didal makes history as the first Filipino skateboarder to compete in the quadrennial Games as the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

The 22-year-old athlete from Cebu, Philippines placed 13th in the women’s street skateboarding world rankings released in June to earn her spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

The Asia’s Skater of the Year awardee won gold medals in the 2018 Asiad in Jakarta and the 2019 South East Asian Games and has built her own skate park in Cebu.

The Filipino skate wunderkind was named among the best talents in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Class of 2020 with world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo.

KURT BARBOSA (Taekwondo)

Kurt Barbosa of the Philippines clinched a Tokyo Olympics berth with an incredible come-from-behind win over hometown favorite Zaid Al-Halawani in the semifinal of the 2021 Asian Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament held in Amman, Jordan.

The Abra native is the lone member of the Philippine Taekwondo Association that qualified for the Summer Games and will compete in the 58-kg weight class.

The National University student-athlete, gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Taekwondo Open Championships, is the first Filipino male jin to qualify for the Olympics in thirteen years.

KIYOMI WATANABE (Judo)

Kiyomi Watanabe will be the first female judoka from the Philippines to ever compete in the Olympics.

The Filipino-Japanese athlete punched her ticket to the Tokyo Summer Games via continental quota for the Games in the women’s -63kg division.

Watanabe, an Asian Games silver medalist in 2018, currently has 1,506 points and is ranked in 41st place of her weight class in the judo Olympic world ranking.

The country’s top judoka was born in Cebu to a Filipino mother and Japanese father and has previously delivered gold medals for Team Philippines in 2017, 2015, and 2013 at the South East Asian Games.

Kiyomi Watanabe is the Philippines’ female flag bearer in the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics alongside boxer Eumir Marcial.

JUVIC PAGUNSAN (Golf)

Juvic Pagunsan, who has won various golf tournaments in his long and illustrious career, is ready to make his Olympic debut in Tokyo.

The Filipino golfer secured a spot in the quadrennial meet in Japan by finishing 49th in the global ranking for male golfers.

Pagunsan brought home three golds and a bronze medal for the Philippines at the SEA Games in 2001 and 2005. He most recently won his maiden Japan Golf Tour title in the 2021 Mizuno Open after playing for ten years in the league.

The country’s lone male representative in golf joins the Tokyo-bound national contingent with the youngest U.S. Women’s Open winner Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan.

YUKA SASO (Golf)

Yuka Saso made history as the first Filipino major golf tournament winner after claiming the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open title.

At 19 years old, she is also tied with South Korean golfer Inbee Park as the U.S. Open’s youngest winner.

The Philippines’ golf phenom is currently ranked 8th in the women’s world rankings, thanks to her historic triumph in the 76th United States Women’s Open Championship held in June.

The Filipino-Japanese golf sensation officially booked her Tokyo Olympics berth in June, joining golfers Juvic Pagunsan and Bianca Pagdanganan after completing the KPMG Women’s Professional Gold Association (PGA) Tournament in the United States.

Yuka Saso represented the Philippines and took home two gold medals at the Asian Games in 2018.

BIANCA PAGDANGANAN (Golf)

Bianca Pagdanganan is one of the Philippines’ top contenders in golf for an Olympic medal.

The Filipina golfer booked a trip to Japan with first Filipina U.S. Women’s Open winner Yuka Saso through the second qualification quota after placing 42nd in the world rankings.

In the 2018 Asian Games, Pagdanganan won a bronze medal in the women’s event and a gold medal in the team event with Saso and Lois Kaye Go. She also bagged individual and team gold medals at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

LUKE GEBBIE (Swimming)

Luke Gebbie and fellow swimmer Remedy Rule hope to make a splash in their Olympic debut appearance in Tokyo to inspire the next generation of Filipino swimmers.

Gebbie punched his ticket to Japan via universality places and emerging the highest-ranked male athlete among Filipinos in the Olympic qualifying events for swimming.

The Filipino swimmer accumulated 828 FINA (International swimming federation) points and will see action in the men’s 50m and 100m freestyle events of the Summer Games.

Gebbie captured silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay and a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle events of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019.

REMEDY RULE (Swimming)

Remedy Alexis Rule is the lone female swimmer representing the Philippines at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rule alongside fellow swimmer Luke Gebbie were awarded universality places in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics swimming competition.

The University of Texas standout tallied 830 FINA ranking points, emerging as the top point earner among female swimmers in the Philippines in the Olympic qualifying events for swimming.

The 2019 SEA Games silver medalist will see action in the women’s 200-meter freestyle and butterfly races at the quadrennial Games.

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.