A weightlifter, who hoisted the spirits of an entire nation; a boxer, who carried the memory of a departed friend to battle; her teammate who fought for his family and another who was out to prove his doubters wrong. They are the Fabulous Four that made millions of Filipinos feel great in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippines' first Olympic gold through Hidilyn Diaz; Nesthy Petecio’s and Carlo Paalam’s silvers and Eumir Marcial’s bronze medal were all scooped in one Olympics edition that went down in history as Team Philippines’ best performance in 97 years.
The Fabulous Four surpassed the Team Philippines’ three-bronze production, courtesy of boxer Jose Villanueva, swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso and high jumper Simeon Toribio, in the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
One motion. It all came down to this for Diaz who toiled hard for 15 years of pain, sweat and tears. It came down to doing something she had not yet done before. One big lift and her countrymen battling a pandemic back home erupted in wild cheers. Gold! Gold! It’s the first ever by a Filipino since the Philippines participated in the Olympics for the first time in 1924.
In spite of what looked like a sole effort by someone who weighs 55 kilograms, Diaz was magnanimous enough to acknowledge and share the accolade with her team and institutions, who supported her journey all the way.
Petecio was also driven by her family’s support as she dedicated her silver medal finish to her best friend, fellow boxer Alexcel Dargantes, who passed away in February. She poured it all in her Facebook post, stating how she misses her, vowing to visit her grave when she returns back home.
"Buddy! Alexcel Dargantes alam [kong] nakikita mo ako ngayon grabe 'yung mga blessing ni Lord ngayon…sobra-sobra buddy!! Lahat ng mga plano natin at na pag-uusapan natin [nangyayari] na. 'Yun lang, wala ka para masaksihan lahat ng 7to. Alam kong kasama kita sa bawat laban ko.. payakap ako ng [mahigpit] sayo! Puntahan kita soon at dadalhin ko 'yung medalya sayo buddy..excited ako ipakita sayo to!! Hindi man 'to ginto pero higit pa sa ginto to dahil buwis buhay [kong] ipinaglaban to! See you soon buddy..miss na kita sobra. I love you!” Petecio said.
Interestingly, Petecio’s silver—the first by a lady boxer from the Philippines—came exactly on the same date when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco took the same color of medal on August 3 in 1996 in Atlanta.
Just like Petecio, Paalam was also fighting to lift his family from poverty. But what made the silver medal doubly sweet was the similarity of the stories of his life and the way the Tokyo medals were made out of scrap materials.
He used to pick up trash that were converted into cash to help feed his family. The medals in Tokyo were made from recycled materials extracted from tons of electronic gadgets. “Itong medal na ito ay simbolo ng buhay ko,” he said.
It could be reason why why he took a long glance at the medal during the awarding ceremonies, probably wondering how a shiny silver medal came about from electronic thrash.
Marcial’s journey was rough, mentally and physically. He was fighting in a bigger weight division, where there were not many world-class boxers in the past. He was in a tank full of sharks. He was training with a team of pros, separate from his teammates and his one social media post attracted a swarm of attacks from some netizens. But his team and believers stood by him.
Marcial’s latest post expressed his gratefulness to all who stuck with him through thick and thin.
“This maybe a bronze medal, but for me the value of this is gold because this is the fruit of all my sacrifices and tears. Proudly! I am a Filipino!”
Their journeys are not over. Expect them to carry the flag again three years from now in the Paris Olympics.