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The Philippines ended its campaign in the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea at 22nd place with one gold, three silver, and 11 bronze medals. With a small delegation of 150 athletes, the medal haul is one of the weakest performances of the country since it began competing in the Asiad in 1951.
The sole gold medal came from Olympian BMX rider Daniel Caluag, a Los Angeles-groomed rider who competed in the London Olympics in 2012. Taekwondo delivered five medals, while boxing added four. Wushu tossed in three, while archery and karate chipped in one each.
In the end, Team Philippines bagged one medal per 10 athletes sent to the quadrennial competition.
It was certainly a disappointing finish, with no less than Malacañang saying so.
“Sabihin na lang po natin na hindi po tayo nalulugod doon sa naging resulta ng Asian Games at ang tama naman po sigurong pananaw diyan ay ‘yung magkaroon ng determinasyon na pagbutihin pa para sa susunod na pagkakataon ay maging kalugod-lugod naman ang performance ng ating bansa,” Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said in an interview aired over state-run DZRB.
The Philippine delegation had the humble goal of surpassing the three-gold, 16-medal finish in the 2010 Asian Games held in Guanzhou, China. Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richie Garcia, for his part, was quoted by media as saying that seven gold medals were possible for the country.
But a look back at the history of Asian Games finished for the country reveals that the Philippines has been in a quagmire since the 1970 Asian Games.
The most glorious year for the Philippines is the 1954 Asiad, when the Games were held in Manila which gave our athletes the home turf advantage. The country bagged 14 gold, 14 silver, and 17 bronze medals for a second place finish behind overall champion Japan.
The Philippines' performance remained strong for the next four Asiads, before going down to a steady decline.
From the two-gold, 42-medal haul in the 1966 Asiad in Bangkok, the Philippines plummeted to a 1-gold, 22-medal finish the following Asiad. The country never went past four gold medals since, and never reached 30 medals in the next 48 years.
Meanwhile, the country suffered its worst performance in 1974 during the Tehran Games, with only two silver and 11 bronze to show. That was the only year the Filipinos got blanked on the gold medal column.
The Philippines' best finish in recent years is the 2002 Asiad in Busan, with 3 gold, seven silver, and 16 bronze for a total of 26 medals.
Poor in medal-rich disciplines
The decline could be attributed to poor performance in medal-rich disciplines such as athletics, swimming, and shooting, which used to be medal mines for the Philippines.
Athletics accounted for 11 of the 48 medals won by the country in the 1958 Tokyo Asiad, with a haul of three gold, four silver, and four bronze medals.
In 1962, the Philippine athletics crew increased its gold haul to four to go with one silver and four bronzes for a nine-medal contribution to the country's total of 37.
But since then, medals earned in athletics have dipped. Asia's sprint queen Lydia de Vega lifted the country with 100-meter gold performances in 1982 and 1986, but the recovery in athletics was short-lived. The last athletics medal won by the Philippines was a bronze in the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad.
This year, a total of 47 gold medals in athletics were up for grabs in Incheon, but only five Filipino athletes competed for the Philippines. Olympian long jumper Marestella Torres, who set the Southeast Asian Games record in 2011, came back from giving birth but could not live up to the hype.
Filipino tankers shared a similar story, seeing their most victorious years from 1951 to 1974. Swimming bagged 16 medals in Tokyo for its best finish and never brought home any lower than nine medals until the decline began in 1978.
The Philippines suddenly lost its brilliance in swimming, with a huge drop to four medals in Bangkok from the 11-medal output in the Tehran Games. The medal performance further dropped to two in New Delhi, and then disappeared altogether for the next three Asiads.
The Philippines was able to recover and bag two bronze medals in 1998, only to sink back into zero, a trend that carried on this year.
A total of 38 gold medals were at stake during this year's Asiad, but only three swimmers raced for the country. Jessie Lacuna and Jasmine Alkhaldi, who both represented the Philippines in the 2012 London Olympics, competed in various events but failed to get anywhere near the podium.
The Philippines also used to perform well in shooting, which accounted for 12 medals in the strong 45-medal haul in the 1954 Manila Asiad. Filipino shooters bagged four gold, four silver, and four bronze medals that year. The output dropped to six medals in Tokyo, before picking up again with 10 in the 1966 Bangkok Asiad.
Since then, however, the country has been off target, coming home empty-handed in nine of the last 12 Asiads.
In Incheon, a total of 44 gold medals were up for grabs, but the two Filipino shooters sent in the Asiad did not get past the qualification rounds.
For the past few editions of the Asian Games, the Philippine campaign has been buoyed by success in boxing, taekwondo, and wushu. These combat sports have been the most consistent medal earners for the Philippines.
Since boxing was introduced in the Manila Asiad, Filipino boxers have never failed to bring home a medal for the country. The Philippines copped the most number of medals in 1954 with six, including five gold and one silver, followed by five-medal hauls in 1970 and 1994.
Boxing's weakest performances were in 1974 and 1998, when the country earned only one bronze medal, followed by 1978 and 2002 with single silver to show.
Led by Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga, this year's Filipino boxers bagged a silver and three bronze medals in Incheon. Half of the eight boxers finished on the podium.
Taekwondo, meanwhile, has been consistently giving medals for the Philippines since it was introduced in the 1986 Seoul Asiad. The country earned a bronze in the inaugural year of the competition, and then improved to a silver the next time the sport was contested in the Asiad in 1994. Taekwondo was not contested in the 1990 Beijing Games.
Since 1998, the sport has never failed to earn at least four medals for the country. This year, the 12 Pinoy taekwondo athletes sent to the competition brought home five bronze medals.
Similarly, wushu, which was introduced in the 1994 Asiad in Hiroshima, has also been a source of pride for the Philippines.
The country started with two bronze medals, then increased its wushu medal haul to five in 2002 with two silvers and three bronzes. It then won its first gold medal in the discipline in the 2006 Doha Asiad courtesy of wushu artist Rene Catalan.
The Philippines brought home a lone bronze in 2010, but bounced back this year with two silvers and a bronze. Three out of the five wushu artists sent by the country brought home a medal.
But, perhaps alarmingly, the Philippines did not manage to net a gold medal in any of these combat competitions in 2014.
Most beloved sport
Basketball, the Philippines' most popular sport, has also been suffering from a decline in the Asian Games. Basketball great Caloy Loyzaga led the national team to four consecutive Asian Games championships in 1951, 1954, 1958, and 1962. After Loyzaga's retirement, the country did not step on the podium for 20 years.
A new generation of basketball greats stopped the medal drought in the 1986 Asian Games. A talented amateur team led by Allan Caidic and Alvin Patrimonio helped the Philippines to a bronze medal that year, and improved to a silver medal finish in the following Asiad with a pro-laden team coached by Robert Jaworski.
Philippine basketball at the Asian Games
The country won its last medal in the Asiad in 1998, when Tim Cone steered the Centennial Team to a bronze medal finish.
This year, the Philippines had its lowest-ever finish in the competition. The Gilas Pilipinas national team carried with high expectations to win the gold following its FIBA World Cup stint in Seville, Spain.
The campaign, however, started to go awry when naturalized NBA star Andray Blatche was barred from playing for the country due to residency issues. Gilas center Marcus Douthit was hurriedly whipped into shape as replacement, but he suffered from a meltdown in the crucial quarterfinal game against Qatar. The loss dealt a huge blow to the Philippines' hopes for gold, and the team eventually bowed out of the playoffs.
For its part, Malacañang noted that the dismal result should encourage the Philippine Sports Commission to re-evaluate its goals, adding that President Benigno Aquino III feels that sports where Pinoys have a competitive edge should be prioritized.
“Malinaw naman ang pagpapahiwatig niyan na marami pa ang dapat gawin ng ating Philippine Sports Commission para mapahusay ang performance ng ating mga manlalaro. Ang paniwala po ng ating Pangulo diyan ay maaari naman siguro tayong mag-focus ng resources doon sa ilang sports na mayroon talagang competitive advantage ang mga Pilipino at maaaring magpakita ng kahusayan,” he said.
Given the results for the Philippine team over the past few decades, it shouldn't be too hard to find out where to look. — With a report from Patricia Denise Chiu/JST, GMA News