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10 Filipino National Athletes That Will Inspire You to Reach Your Dreams

These are just some of the names to note.
10 Filipino National Athletes That Will Inspire You to Reach Your Dreams
IMAGE instagram/biancapagda, instagram/remedyrule
These are just some of the names to note.
Our national athletes are in need of support. Funding has always been a problem in the Philippines—that goes beyond sports, really—and the Tokyo Olympics has highlighted that need all over again. And it’s not just financial support either! Most of our Olympic podium-finishers faded into obscurity after their win. But here’s hoping our first-ever gold, courtesy of Hidilyn Diaz, will change things up. We shed the light on just some of the other national athletes who deserve our support, even just attention, too!

All our Filipino athletes need national support; here are just a few to cheer on:

1. Eumir Marcial, Boxing

Eumir Marcial’s first Olympic stint is at the Tokyo Olympics—and he’s already in the running for a medal after advancing to the middleweight division quarter-finals on July 29. The 25-year-old boxer trained under Manny Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach for Tokyo Olympics after having failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 2011, Marcial was the first Filipino ever to win gold at the World Junior Boxing Championship at just 15 years old. He also struck gold at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia. Like Diaz, he is from Zamboanga and is a member of the Philippine Air Force. Here’s hoping an Olympic gold will also soon be one of their similarities.

PHOTO BY instagram/eumirmarcial

2. Remedy Rule, Swimming

Swimmer Remedy Rule represented the Philippines for two events at the Tokyo Olympics: the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter butterfly. She bowed out after failing to qualify but will be able to carry the proud tag of “Olympian” forever! The 24-year-old Filipino-American first represented the Philippines at the 2019 FINA World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, where she broke the national record in the women’s 100-meter butterfly. Rule also struck silver twice at the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 2019.

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PHOTO BY instagram/remedyrule

3. Bianca Pagdanganan, Golf

Alongside fellow Filipina golfer Yuka Saso—who clinched the US Women’s Open Championship in June 2021—at the Tokyo Olympics is 23-year-old Bianca Pagdanganan. The Quezon City-born golfer moved to the U.S. for undergraduate studies in 2015 but began her lifelong love affair with golf in the Philippines when she was just seven years old. She is dubbed The Unicorn for her insane talent, especially as a long-hitter. And this isn’t the first time Pagdanganan and Saso will probably see each other on the playing field! The two, along with Lois Kaye Go, won the team event of the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

PHOTO BY instagram/biancapagda

4. Juvic Pagunsan, Golf

Veteran Filipino golfer Juvi Pagunsan rounds out the trio of Pinoy golfers at the Tokyo Olympics. Pagunsan, whose father was a professional golfer, first began playing golf at 15 years-old. He was named the Asian Tour Rookie of the Year in 2006. In May, he won the Gate Way to the Open Mizuno Open in Okayama, Japan—a feat he had been struggling to achieve for 10 years, and all without a caddie due to COVID-19 restrictions.

PHOTO BY facebook/Juvic Pagunsan

5. Kurt Barbosa, Taekwondo

While Kurt Barbosa started getting into taekwondo when he was six, he only decided to take the sport seriously when he was 13—after his mother caught him at an Internet café in their hometown of Bangyued, Abra when he was supposed to be training for the Batang Pinoy competition. Barbosa ended up taking home the bronze then. From then on, he took training seriously and went on to win gold at the 30th SEA Games. The 22-year-old’s first go at an Olympic medal at the Tokyo Olympics may not have been successful but something tells us he is sure to keep on striving. Just check out Diaz’s response to his tweet!

PHOTO BY instagram/kurtesyyy

6. EJ Obiena, Pole Vault

Ernest John Obiena’s parents are both members of the Philippine Pole Vault Club. His father Emerson was also a national athlete and won bronze medals at the 2005 and 2007 SEA Games. So it’s not much of a surprise Obiena first picked up pole vaulting at just six years old. Obiena bagged gold at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, ending a 10-year medal drought. He was the first Filipino athlete to officially qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after clearing the standard record of 5.80 meters during the Pole Vaulting athletics meet in Piazza Chiari, Italy in 2019. The Tokyo Olympics will be his first go for an Olympic medal.

PHOTO BY instagram/ernestobienapv

7. Irish Magno, Boxing

Irish Magno made history as the first Filipina boxer ever to qualify for the Olympics in March 2020. Fellow boxer Nesthy Petecio qualified in March 2021. She first started training in secret at just 16 years old after seeing boxers at the town plaza of Janiuay, Iloilo, her hometown. From there, her first real fight somehow ended up being against SEA Games gold medalist Annie Albania. She suffered a pretty terrible loss—but that fight started something in her. Magno may have exited the Tokyo Olympics sans a medal but there’s no doubt she has her eyes on the gold. It’s only a matter of time.

PHOTO BY Photo by Sherwin Vardeleon

8. Kiyomi Watanabe, Judo

Our lone Judo representative bowed out of the Tokyo Olympics after a 38-second-long match against Spain’s Cristina Cabana Perez on July 27. Seeing as this was the 24-year-old’s first go at an Olympic medal, we’re sure to see her again. The Filipino-Japanese athlete’s mother is from Cebu, where she was also born. Watanabe has four gold medals in the SEA Games.

PHOTO BY Photo by Philstar

9. Elreen Ann Ando, Weightlifting

Elreen Ando finished strong in seventh place at the women’s 64-kilogram weightlifting competition at the Tokyo Olympics—and the weightlifter even set new personal bests while she was at it. Months before the Olympics, the 22-year-old Cebuano cinched three medals, two silvers and one bronze, at the Asian Weightlifting Championship. Looks like we’re bound to see her at the 2024 Paris Olympics!

PHOTO BY facebook/Elreen Ando Oly

10. Cris Nievarez, Rowing

Twenty-one-year-old Cris Nievarez was always interested in sports even as a kid, but it was only when he was 15 that he decided on rowing. He joined the national rowing team after having been scouted by coach Justine Kyle Vinas, following three months of training at La Mesa Dam. It was a gamble for Nievarez at that time, but it has clearly paid off. The rower struck gold at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines. His first try at the Tokyo Olympics bore no medals but we’re here cheering him on for his next run.

PHOTO BY Photo by CNN Philippines

*This story originally appeared on Spot.phMinor edits have been made by the editors.

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