These Young Filipino Athletes Are Making History in the Sporting World
From Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz to boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines has produced a fair amount of outstanding Filipino athletes throughout the century, and that number keeps on growing. The last few years have seen a rise in groundbreaking local sportsmen and women who are making a history of firsts in their respective sports.
There’s no denying the amount of sheer willpower and hard work required of athletes to get a victory. The sporting world is not an easy one—triumphs require nothing less than their blood, sweat, and tears. Yet, these young Filipino athletes have persevered and proven their mettle against the best of the best.
Here are just some of the young Filipino athletes making history and breaking records in the sporting world:
Sport: pole vaulting
Ernest (EJ) Obiena has been breaking national records in pole vaulting since he was 18 years old—most of which were set by Obiena himself. The young athlete first broke the national record in 2014, beating the record set by Edward Lasquete during the 1992 Summer Olympics. Since then, he’s been consistently resetting the national record, with his recent all-time best currently at 5.81m, which he achieved during a tournament in Chiara, Italy on September 3, 2019.
Passing the Olympic qualifying standard in pole vault (which is set at 5.80m), Obiena’s stellar results in Italy won him a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, making him the first Filipino to qualify for next year’s international competition.
Before making it to the international stage, Obiena competed in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) in 2014 under the University of Santo Tomas. Now, he’s preparing for the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships to be held in September in Qatar, as well as the Southeast Asian Games, which will bring him back to the Philippines in November.
Currently ranked 10th in the world, Obiena is Asia’s reigning champion in pole vaulting. He is arguably the best pole vaulter the Philippines has produced, and he’s only getting started.
The son of Filipino immigrants in France, Filipino-French footballer Alphonse Areola is currently the most high profile footballer with Filipino heritage in the international scene.
Areola has been playing with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) since 2006, eventually graduating from the youth team to the B-team to the main team. As a goalkeeper for PSG, one of the best professional football teams in the world, Areola has competed in a number of premier football competitions, such as Ligue 1, Coupe de France, and Trophée des Champions.
In his international career, Areola was placed as the third-string keeper in the French national team during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. France went on to win its second-ever World Cup title, making Areola possibly the first Filipino to ever hold the glorious World Cup trophy.
Trading Ligue 1 for La Liga, the keeper is currently with Real Madrid on loan from PSG. The transfer was announced on September 2, 2019, and will last for one season. Under Real Madrid, Areola will be coached by the legendary Zinedine Zidane and play alongside some of football’s greats: Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, and Isco.
The son of professional kiteboarders, Christian Tio could say that the extreme sport runs in his blood. Tio became the first Filipino athlete to win any medal in the Summer Youth Olympic Games after bagging a silver medal in the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Argentina.
The young Olympian was influenced by his kiteboarding Norwegian father and Filipina mother to take up the sport, using their native home of Boracay, Aklan as his first training ground until Boracay’s six-month closure took effect. When he wasn’t training in Norway and the Dominican Republic, Tio trained at Lake Caliraya in Laguna.
Tio, who has been dubbed the “Philippine kiteboarding wonder,” has already set his sights on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, which will mark the first time that the extreme sport will become part of the international competition.
Filipina Margarita “Meggie” Ochoa was crowned one of the reigning female champions of Jiu-Jitsu on November 25, 2018. Ochoa won the gold in the women’s -49kg division in the 2018 Jiu-Jitsu World Championships in Sweden, making her the first Filipino to ever become a Jiu-Jitsu World champion.
Before her win in Sweden, Ochoa bagged a gold in the Grand Slam Jiu-Jitsu World Tournament in London in March 2018, and a bronze in the Asian Games in Indonesia in August 2018. She also won the Philippines its first gold in the 4th Jiu-Jitsu Asian Championships in Mongolia in July 2019.
Ochoa is a member of Atos Philippines, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu organization based in Quezon City. The martial artist is now preparing to represent the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games in November of this year.
There are already speculations that Aidric Jose Chan could be the next great Filipino golfer after Chan became the first Filipino to win an IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championship crown after a long five-year drought. The victory happened on July 13, 2019, when Chan bagged the top spot in the elite boy’s division with a clutch birdie on the 16th hole.
Held annually in San Diego, California, the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships is noted for producing some of the world’s best professional golfers. Tiger Woods is one of the winning alumni of the competition, which features a series of tournaments for six age groups under 17.
Manila Southwoods Golf & Country Club was Chan’s training ground prior to the big competition, which he has been competing in since he was 10 years old. The young Filipino athlete is now prepping for the Southeast Asian Games where he will play for the Philippine national team.