The victory of Filipina athletes

CONGRATULATIONS are due to all the athletes, especially the podium finishers, who competed in the Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia. Without a doubt, Filipinos are proud that our athletes brought home 21 medals — four golds, two silvers, and 15 bronzes. Getting four gold medals, in fact, is the country’s best Asian Games performance since winning seven gold medals in 1962.

With our medal count, we finished 19th out of 37 participating nations. Clearly, we could do better. This is nevertheless a step in the right direction as the country finished 22nd during the previous Asian Games, in Incheon, South Korea, with 15 medals — 11 bronzes, three silvers, and only one gold.

This year, our Filipina athletes clearly dominated. Out of 21 medals, 13 — or 60 percent — were won by Filipinas. More importantly, all of the four gold medals were due to the enormous efforts of female athletes.

You have Hidilyn Diaz who, at this point, has already become a household name for her silver medal at 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. After trailing against Kristina Shermetova, Diaz confidently performed a come-from-behind feat to beat the lifter from Turkmenistan. You also have Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go whose performance resulted in two gold medals in both the Women’s Individual and Women’s Team categories for golf — all in one day. This is our first gold win in the sport since Ramon Brobio in the 1986 Asian Games.

Perhaps the bigger breakthrough came from 19-year old Cebuana Margielyn Didal who got the gold medal for Women’s Street Skateboarding — a notable finish for Didal and the country since Asian Games authorities recognized skateboarding as an official sport this year. This is particularly special for the female skateboarder who shared with the media that her passion is oftentimes ridiculed and restricted in the streets and other establishments. She now hopes for skateboarding to gain more attention and support especially from the government.

What’s noteworthy — but hardly surprising — is that these gold medalists have broken gender stereotypes, having excelled in sports which were formerly associated only with men. Some have even pointed out that in certain sports, women outperform men.

For instance, a 2016 study by researchers from the Ben-Gurion University (Israel), the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) and New York University-Shanghai (China) found that in competitive tennis, men buckled more under pressure than women.  Analyzing up to 8,200 Grand Slam matches, the researchers found that while male players made more unforced errors during “pivotal points” of the match, the performance of the female players varied less. In simpler terms, as the study put it, men choked more consistently than women — hence the conclusion that women respond better than men to competitive pressure.

Meanwhile, an April 2018 New York Times editorial cited this year’s Boston Marathon, which was bombed by torrential rains and near-freezing temperatures. Men typically dropped out of the race at lower rates than women. But this year’s excruciating race found that men quit at rates 80-percent higher than 2017, where women only bowed out 12-percent more.  Similar results were observed in the 2012 Boston Marathon, where it was heat that made the race atypically difficult.  The upshot was that the difference could possibly be explained not by physiology or genetics, but psychology.  The editorial noted that perhaps women basically tend to endure against adversity more than men.

Such studies should only highlight the innate dignity and strength of women.  And when viewed in tandem with our recent medal showing, they should underscore that government should only ramp up its grassroots sports programs and expand its support so that both men and women — boys and girls — are enticed to play more, to discover their niche, and ultimately pursue sports excellence.

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Our deepest condolences to the family of Panay News founder Daniel “Danny” G. Fajardo.  We offer our prayers for his peaceful and eternal repose.

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(Sen. Sonny Angara was elected in 2013, and now chairs the Senate committees on local government, and ways and means. (Email: [email protected]| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara)/PN

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