Whether they won a medal and ended long-running droughts or just made a splash with their participation, these athletes helped give Team Philippines its moments at the Asian Games.
As arguably one of the last major sporting tournaments before the 2024 Paris Olympics, The 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China was the chance for Team Philippines to prove their mettle in the lead-up to the big event next year. And in many ways, they did as the country finished in 17th place in the official medal tally with 4 gold, 2 silver, and 12 bronze. While the 18 medal haul was slight lowers than 2018’s 21, the country did have its best result leaderbord wise in the continental competition since 1994 when we finished 14th. And this success is thanks to Pinoy athletes who made an impact at the two week-long event that reverberated far and wide.
Some won gold, others bagged no medal, a few made their debut at the Games while others flexed their veteran status, but these athletes, just like with the rest of the Team Philippine delegation, made their country proud with their athleticism and showmanship. Here are just a few of the Pinoy athletes who left the 19th Asian Games as winners.
In a redemption arch that’s fit for the movies, Gilas Pilipinas rebounded from their disappointing FIBA World Cup showing to bag a gold medal in men’s basketball when they defeated Jordan with a score of 70-60. Not only did the men’s national basketball team prove that they were not to be underestimated, but they also ended the country’s 61-year-long drought of not winning a gold medal in the sport, with the last time that happened going back to 1962 in Jakarta. And let’s also not sleep on the women’s national basketball team as Gilas Women ended their run at a respectable 5th place.
In the lead-up to the Asian Games, EJ Obiena had the proverbial weight of the world on his shoulders after his historic 2023 season. And that winning streak continued when he launched himself into the history books once again as he cleared 5.90 meters in the men’s pole vault. The win not only got EJ a gold medal (and the country’s first at the 19th Asian Games), but it also garnered the athlete the Asian Games record for the sport. The World No. 2 pole vaulter also ended the country’s medal drought in track and field since 1994. It was the best way for EJ to end his season as he spends the next year resting and gearing up for his highly-anticipated run at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Even as she was battling the flu, Meggie Ochoa proved that she had the heart and will of a champion when she defeated UAE’s Balqees Abdulla in the 48kg division of women’s jiu-jitsu finals, thus earning the Filipina a gold medal.
Also slaying in jiu-jitsu was Annie Ramirez, who brought the country great pride when she won the gold medal in the 57kg division as she defeated Galina Duvanova of Kazakhstan at the finals.
Alex Eala had the best kind of Asian Games debut as the 18-year-old champion took home two bronze medals, one from women’s singles, and the other from mixed doubles, thus earning the tennis star a slew of historic firsts.
Do you know what’s better than winning an Asian Games medal? Winning a medal while also booking a ticket to the Paris Olympics. And that’s the one-two punch boxer Eumir Marical experienced at the Asian Games. While he did settle for silver after losing to China in the finals, Eumir’s defeat of Syria’s Ahmad Ghousoon at the men’s 80kg semi-finals earned the boxer a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics next August. Eumir can also brag that he was the first Filipino to compete in a gold medal match at the Asian Games in over a decade.
MAZEL PRAIS ALEGADO
Most 9-year-olds are probably busy with school. But for Mazel Prais Alegado, she was busy making headlines in her run at the 19th Asian Games. While the 9-year-old athlete (yes, she’s just 9), failed to make it to the podium in skateboarding, she did reach the finals and placed 7th at Park Skateboarding, solidifying herself as a skater to watch out for.
Hidilyn Diaz isn’t the only Filipina weightlifter to watch out for. 24-year-old Elreen Ando, who has proven herself to be one of the best female weightlifters in the country, lifted her way to a bronze medal win in the 64kg category. She is the only weightlifter in the Philippine delegation to take home a medal at the 19th Asian Games.