Sports Sports Feature

The Summer Olympics: More than your average sports competition

Every four years, people from all around the world will be glued to their couches watching television, hoping to catch the world’s best athletes compete in one of the biggest stages in the sporting world: The Summer Olympic Games. From an athelete’s perspective, those four years of hard work will culminate in one big event that lasts for about a month, a time when they will face some of the best the world has to offer.

Going back to the roots

With a great competition comes a rich background. Originating from ancient Greece, the Olympics started as an event that was held every four years, a period that was soon called Olympiad, for a festival that was held to honor the Greek god Zeus during ancient times. It was given that name because of the historical place in which they celebrated, which was called Olympia.

At that time, the Olympics were exclusive only to the male Greeks who would compete  at the only event, the 192-meter foot race called the Stade. But little by little, a variety of events were added throughout the editions after the 13th Olympiad.

After the Romans took over Greece, the games still continued, and it didn’t take long before the Romans started joining the Games. However, not long after, people started using underhanded tricks to have themselves declared as winners in the Olympics, leading to a decline in the quality of the Games.

Years later, pagan festivals were banned, with the Olympics being included in the order brought out by Emperor Theodosius I. Along with the millennium-long hiatus that followed the event, the Olympia in which the events were held began to crumble.

It was only through the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France that the Games were brought back. Coubertin raised a proposal in 1892 during one of the meetings of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques, an organization he co-founded. It was then approved a couple of years after, paving the way for the formation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the revival of the Olympics. Male participants from 13 different countries were invited to partake in the first modern Olympics held in April 1896 at Athens, Greece.

Olympics article-01

Modern Olympians making history

Throughout the editions of the Olympic Games, there have been a number of great athletes who have made a name for themselves. American track and field athlete JVesse Owens was one of them, as he bagged several gold medals and broke a total of five Olympic world records at that time in the 1936 Berlin Games.

Another athlete that also made history was the late boxer Muhammad Ali, who showed his unique boxing style and thirst for victory in the Olympic stage, a stellar start to a career that succeeded in inspiring a lot of boxers to come, including the Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

Another notable athlete is world-renowned swimmer Michael Phelps. He clinched a total of 22 medals in a span of four Olympiads, with his stint at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia being the only edition he came home without a medal. Because of this, he is known as the most decorated Olympian of all time.

However, before Phelps held the record in the most Olympic medals won, it was Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina who held the distinction from the year 1964 to 2012. Having won 18 Olympic medals overall, she was also a part of the team that benchmarked the Soviet’s reign on the sport in the 1956 Olympics.

Filipino Olympian medalists make their mark

Although the competition is quite tough, Filipinos have managed to win medals in the Olympic Games. The most recent victory came in the 2014 Youth Olympics Games (YOG). Filipino archer Luis Gabriel Moreno found himself reaching a milestone for the Philippines after being recognized as the first Filipino to have ever won a gold medal in the YOG.

On the other hand, Arianne Cerdeña was the first Filipina to have snagged first place in the Olympics in the 1988 Bowling Demonstration sports event. Former DLSU Taekwondo head coach Stephen Fernandez claimed the bronze medal in the Men’s bantamweight division in Taekwondo in the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain.

While they didn’t claim first place, Filipino boxers Anthony Villanueva (Men’s Featherweight) and Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco (Men’s Light Flyweight) brought home silver medals after finishing second in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and 1996 Atlanta Olympics, respectively.

In addition to these medalists, there were also several other Filipinos who won themselves bronze medals in their respective fields, with Teófilo Yldefonso being the only Filipino to win multiple Olympic medals.

This year’s Summer Olympics will have boxers Charly Suarez and Roger Ladon, Nestor Colonia and Hidilyn Diaz for weightlifting, track and field athletes Eric Cray, Mary Joy Tabal, and Maristella Torres, Kirstie Alora for taekwondo, and DLSU Lady Paddler Yan Lariba continuing the quest for the Philippines’ first official gold medal.

Last minute preparations are well under way for every competing country as the opening of the 2016 Rio Olympics draws closer. It won’t be too long before these athletes will be able to showcase their skills to the rest of the world in order to bring pride to their countries.

Tinsel Joaquin

By Tinsel Joaquin

Leave a Reply