June 22, 2024

Golden girls: Bannered by women, Philippines flexed its muscles in 2018 Asian Games

Golden girls: Bannered by women, Philippines flexed its muscles in 2018 Asian Games
Art by Royce Nicdao

Hangzhou, China is hosting this year’s Asian Games. If you know math and the fact that the regional meet takes place once every four years, you might wonder why it wasn’t held last year. You have COVID-19 to blame for that.

To get to that point, you should also know that the last Asiad was held in 2018. It’s been five years and humans don’t always remember things as accurately as they happened. Allow us to try to refresh you with some of the event’s highlights through this piece.

By the numbers


The Philippines sent 272 athletes to compete in Jakarta and Palembang, who competed in 31 different sports. This number excludes the 63 officials who also flew to Indonesia to provide support to the delegates.  

It’s also almost twice the size of the delegation sent in 2014, highlighting how the Filipinos are eager to turn their fortunes around after only winning a singular gold in South Korea—courtesy of BMX cyclist Daniel Caluag.


Out of 45 Asian nations who joined the tilt, the Filipinos placed 19th. This is an improvement compared to the 22nd-place finish in the 2014 Asiad.  


Finishing 19th was an upgrade, but it was still short of the 15th place that the Philippine Olympic Committee set as a goal prior to the multi-sport event.


Despite the failure to meet the goal in rankings, the Philippines finished the Asian Games on a good note as it grabbed four golds, two silvers, and 15 bronzes for a total of 21 medals. The four golden plums were the most the country brought home since 2006.

Notable storylines

Women power

All of the Philippines’ four gold medals in Jakarta and Palembang were won by women—yep, as if the ladies needed one more thing to prove how they would give any man a run for his money in terms of competence.

Yuka Saso, who unfortunately now represents the Japanese flag, brought two of those golden jewels. The then 17-year-old golfer topped the competition in women’s individual and team events.

Saso’s teammates, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go, also brought their A-game to help snag the team gold.

Weightlifting queen and now Philippine sporting icon Hidilyn Diaz was in the middle of her ascent back in 2018. Coming off a silver finish in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Diaz found no reason to settle for anything less than gold in the 53-kilogram category of the Asian competition.

Margielyn Didal, a wizard on a skateboard, clinched the last gold medal for the Filipinos in Indonesia, topping the women’s street skateboard event. Beyond her skills in the skate park, Didal’s sparkling personality also captured the hearts of many fans.

Another woman, Kiyomi Watanabe, won one of the country’s two silvers in women’s 63-kilogram judo. Softball team RP Blu Girls also had an inspiring performance despite falling short of a podium finish. Even the Filipina bowlers got the nod from coach and bowling legend Paeng Nepomuceno for their performances.

Skateboarding gets momentum  

Aside from Didal’s charm, skateboarding inherently looks cool, too. It only needed her gold-medal finish to spark more interest in the sport. Margielyn being Margielyn, she is able to pull off tutorial videos like the one below without a sweat, just days after her win.

JC is here!

The 2018 Asiad also marked the first time that Jordan Clarkson represented the country. After years of trying to iron things out for his national team stint, it finally came to fruition—thanks also to the Asian Games’ relaxed eligibility rules.

If you enjoyed the JC show in the recent FIBA World Cup, imagine watching him for the first time in the Asian Games. He was exactly what the Filipino fans wanted to see. Gilas Pilipinas may have missed the podium and finished fifth, but don’t say fans were not entertained by the Philippines' Asiad flagbearer.

Philippines slipping in boxing?

Boxing is one of the country’s favorite sports, thus it wasn’t crazy to hear the late Ed Picson, then president of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), saying during the elimination rounds that he “expected a lot more” boxers to be in contention.

Out of eight boxing delegates, only three went to the medal rounds. Rogen Ladon bagged silver, while Eumir Marcial and Carlo Paalam both settled for bronze.

What do you think will be the biggest stories for the Philippines in this year’s Asian Games?