December 01, 2023

More than gold: Philippines' best Asian Games moments

More than gold: Philippines
Art by Royce Nicdao

Outside the Olympics, the Asian Games is the largest multi-sport event in the world. The Philippines has competed in the continental tournament since its inception in 1951 and was very successful in its early years.

While the country is far from being called an Asian powerhouse these days, there are still a lot of golden moments for the Philippines to celebrate. Here are some of them arranged from latest to oldest.

Jordan Clarkson debuts for the Philippines (2018)

Clarkson concluded his stint with Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup earlier this month with a monster performance against China. Coincidentally, the Utah Jazz guard debuted for the Philippines in 2018 also against the Chinese squad. Gilas lost by two points back then, but watching Clarkson in a Gilas uniform and scoring 28 points for the country felt like a dream come true for many Pinoy hoops fans.

Hidilyn Diaz tops Asia before historic gold in Olympics (2018)

Diaz's victory in the 2018 Asian Games marked a new territory for the Pinay weightlifter. The pride of Zamboanga became the first Filipino to ever win gold in Asiad weightlifing and was the country's first top finish in the tournament that year. Topping the Asiad also served as a momentum-builder for her eventual gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics just three years later.

Pinoy boxers made sure to win gold for the Philippines (1994)

The Philippines may not be among Asia's sporting giants, but the country has managed to secure at least one gold medal in all but 1 of 18 Asian Games iterations. During the 1994 Asiad in Hiroshima, Japan, the boxing team took it upon themselves to make sure that there will be gold—three of them. Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco topped the light-flyweight division, while Elias Recaido Jr. won gold in flyweight. Completing the golden trifecta was Reynaldo Galido, who ruled the light-welterweight division. Two years later, Velasco became the second Filipino to win a silver medal in the Olympics.

First all-PBA national team (1990)

Before Team USA formed its Dream Team in 1992, the Philippines had already made its own local version of that with an all-PBA lineup for the 1990 Asiad. The squad coached by none other than the legendary Robert "Sonny" Jaworski was composed of Mon Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio, Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc, Chito Loyzaga, Dante Gonzalgo, Rey Cuenco, Zaldy Realubit, and Yves Dignadice. Despite short preparation for the national team, it nonetheless won silver that year, and it was an improvement from the Philippines' bronze medal finish in 1986. In fact, that all-pro squad lost only once in the tournamentagainst China in the final.

Lydia de Vega outlasts P.T. Usha for back-to-back gold in 100m (1986)

India's P. T. Usha could have had five gold medals in the 1986 tournament, but de Vega had other plans in the 100m. Proving she is the Sprint Queen of Asia, de Vega sprinted to the gold medal, winning with a margin of 0.14 seconds to defend her title in the event.

The year, in Hangzhou, China, Filipino athletes will once again try to make more memorable moments for the country. You can follow their pursuits of excellence via Cignal TV, One Sports, and Pilipinas Live, and you can check out the schedule of events here.