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FILIPINO WORLD CHAMPIONS AND HALL OF FAMERS

The Philippines may be starved of Olympic gold medal, however, she has a slew of world medals in world championships. Her Olympic medals may have rolled out from boxing (two silvers and three bronzes), swimming (two in pre-WW II period yet) and athletics (two also in pre-war period yet) but in world championships her harvest in these sports have been bordering on famine proportions.

Boxing’s success in the Olympic Games has yet to be paralleled in world championships. Until Josie Gabuco swiped a gold medal only this year, boxing had been a non-entity like swimming and athletics with regard to gilt output in world championships. Previously, the best showings by Philippine boxers in world tilts were silver finishes by Harry Tanamor and Ruel Velasco, the same pugilist who brought home a bronze from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Tanamor proved to be a dud in the 2004 and 2008 Games.

At the professional level, the Philippines has been undoubtedly a world power. Manny Pacquiao, the People’s Champion, and Nonito Donaire, a promising heir to Hall of Fame-bound Pacquiao, have collected 12 titles in separate weight divisions between themselves—the former with eight and the latter four. The strong world championship tradition started by Pancho Villa (born Francisco Guilledo) when he ascended the vacant flyweight throne in 1923, five years before swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso gifted the Philippines its first Olympic medal—a bronze—counts no less than 20 other titleholders. Promoter par excellence Lope “Papa” Sarreal played a pivotal role in nurturing and strengthening the tradition.

Villa was not to be the first Filipino boxer to be enshrined in the boxing’s halls of fame, however. The distinction would belong to Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, who held the longest reign in the junior lightweight division. Elorde was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993 and Guilledo a year later. Both Elorde and Guilledo were also enrollees in the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Middleweight Ceferino Garcia, inventor of the “bolo punch” and the heaviest Filipino boxer to emerge as world champion, was also enshrined in the World Boxing Hall of Fame as were Elorde and Guilledo.

Our country have had gold medalist In only three other Olympic sports—weightlifting, golf (which will return to the Olympic program in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games after a hiatus of a century and 12 years) and taekwondo.

Salvador del Rosario lifted a gold medal in the 1970 World Weightlifting Championships flyweight clean & jerk when there were still three gold medals (one apiece for the two lifts and total)  staked in every weight division. Del Rosario competed in the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics.

Dorothy “Joy” Delasin, then the youngest golfer to rule a leg in the US LPGA Tour, swung in the title in the 2001 Samsung World Championship. In 2008, Delasin and Jennifer Rosales topped the 4th Women’s World Cup of Golf, birdying the last 4 holes.

The triumvirate of Rani Ann Ortega, Camille Alarilla and Janice Lagman triumphed in the 2009 World Poomsae Championship. (Poomsae is not an Olympic discipline of Taekwondo yet.) Last year, the men’s trio of Sabido brothers (Jean Pierre and Brian) and Ray Anthony Matias equaled the feat.

Swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso, the first Filipino athlete to bag an Olympic medal and the first and only Filipino Olympic double medalist, added another first to his achievements. He is the first and only Filipino Olympian to be a hall of famer. Considered as the “Father of Breaststroke”, Yldefonso was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in the pioneer swimmer category in 2010.

The Philippines has been making waves in the so-called Puyat sports—bowling and billiards. The Puyats have been and continue to be the No. 1 patrons of these two sports.

Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno, married to a Puyat scion, and Olivia “Bong” Coo were the very first Filipinos to have barged into a hall of fame. The duo, together with a Swedish voted 1987 Female Bowler of the Year, were the inaugural inductees to the International Bowling Hall of Fame in 1993.Lita de la Rosa was inducted posthumously seven years later.

Nepomuceno and Coo, both cited in the Guinness Book of World Records, are multiple world champions. Nepomuceno is the only winner of four World Cups (an annual event) and the youngest to become one. Coo had collected three gold medals in the FIQ Championship (staged every quadrennial) and one championship in the World Cup.

Owner of 119 career titles, Nepomuceno was named by the FIQ, world’s bowling governing body, as the “International Bowling Athlete of the Millennium”. He was the only bowler to have been awarded the IOC President’s trophy.

Toting a record 135 championship titles with at least a Masters title for 28 consecutive years, Coo is also the top Filipino gold medal producer in the Asian Games with five. She received an Achievement Diploma from the IOC for “her outstanding contribution in promoting the development and participation of women and girls in sports”.

Our bowlers’ best performance in the first FIQ Championship (now World Tenpin Bowling Association Championship) was seen in Manila in 1979. Lita de la Rosa emerged as the Masters and ladies singles champion. Coo struck gold in the all-events (she repeated in 1983) and in the doubles (with De la Rosa). Ollie Ongtawco grabbed the men’s single gold. The other FIQ golds  were mined in the women’s trios in 2003 and men’s Masters in 2006 (Biboy Rivera).

Over at the World Cup, aside from Nepomuceno’s titles in 1976, ’80, ’92 and ’96, there were De la Rosa’s in 1978, Coo’s in 1979 and Christian Jan Suarez’s in 2003.

In 2003, Efren “The Magician” Reyes, with more than 80 major pool championships in his pocket became the first Asian to be inducted to the Bowling Congress of America’s Hall of Fame. Franciso “Django” Bustamante followed suit in 2010.

Reyes, considered the best all-around and one-pocket pool player in the history of the game, blazed the trail in 1999 for other Filipino 9-ball world championships: Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan in 2004, Renato “The Volcano” Alcano in 2006 and Bustamante in 2010. This he did, likewise, in 8-ball in 2004. Alcano succeeded in 2007 and Dennis “Robocop Orcollo, the money-game king, in 2011.

Reyes partnered with Rubilen Amit, the 2009 ladies 10-ball world champion, for the World Mixed Doubles Championship they have dominated in 2009 and 2011. With Bustamante as his partner, they topped the 2006 and 2009 World Cup of Pool.

Crowding the bowlers out from top billing are the wushu athletes who kicked their campaign in their own world championships in 1991, four years removed from the inception of the Wushu Federation Philippines. Twenty years and 9 world tilts (they didn’t see action in 2001 and 2009) later, they have 13 gold medals to display: seven in taolu (routine exercises) and six in the sanshou or sanda (combat); medals in World Cup excluded.

Samson Co was best performer in taolu. He garnered back-to back golds in 1991 and 1993. The other gold medalists included Alfonso Que (1995), Lester Pimentel (1995), Mark Robert Rosales (1997), Arvin Ting (2003) and Willy Wang (2007).

In sanda, Rene Catalan was, likewise, back-to-back gold medalist (2003 and 2005). Rexel Nganhayna (2005), Benjie Rivera (2005), Dembert Arcita (2011) and Jesse Aligaga (2011) were the other gold medalists. Catalan was also back-to-back champion in the Sanshou World Cup (2004 and 2006) with Rivera adding another gold (2006).

Wang snared a gold medal in the Wushu Championship organized in conjunction with the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although the championship was not an official event of the Games, Wang’s gold and the silver and bronzes of his three teammates served as balm to the Olympic Team Philippines suffering from another medal shut out.

Jethro Dionisio was the toast of the practical shooting world in the first half of the ‘90s. In 1992 and ’93 Dionisio and Valerie Levanza were the fastest guns alive as they dominated the Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championship. From 1993 to 1995, Dionisio was the World Shootoff Champion. He shifted from pistol to shot gun and went on to show his wares in the 2004 Athens Olympics. His performance was not worth crowing about.

Athena Lee was the fastest female shooter in 2002 to 2003 following Valerie’s sister Cathy (1998).  Lee also snatched a gold medal in the International Practical Shooting Championship in 1999 as did Kaye Cabalatungan in 2002 and Jeufro Jag Lejano in 2005.

Paul del Rosario became the first Filipino jetski world champion when he topped the 2010 QuakySense-IJSBA World Finals. Del Rosario pulled the rug from under his topnotch rivals to capture the Premium Open Expert Runabout crown in the International Jetsports and Boating Association (IJSBA)-organized event.

The only team sport that has been reaping gold medals in world championships is dragon boat. Team Philippines has secured gold medals, and setting world records in the process, in the 2007, 2009 and 2011 world meetings under the aegis of the International Dragon Boat Federation. The Philippines will no longer be officially represented in IDBF competitions for dragon boat had been subsumed as a discipline under International Canoe-Kayak Federation.

Our Blu Boys and Blu Girls may not have reached the summit in softball world tilts but two of their administrators had been enshrined to the International Softball Hall of Fame–the late former Rizal Gov. Isidro Rodriguez, ex-Amateur Softball Association-Philippines and defunct Philippine Sports Committee (then POC counterpart for non-Olympic Sports) and ex-ASA-Phil Secretary General, the late Eriberto Landero in.

(The Blu Girls caught bronze in the 1970 World Softball Championship where Julita Tayo was hailed as the best left-handed pitcher in the world. The Blu Boys were beaten out of third place in 1970.)

Team Philippines rounded out the podium finishers in the 1954 World Basketball Championship where Carlos “The Big Difference” was chosen to the “Mythical Five” and World Baseball Championship in 1966.

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