In the limelight: Filipino Olympian’s unlaced glories that captured our hearts

Until now, we remain in awe after the country’s biggest multi-medal haul since 1932, courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz’ gold, two silvers from boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, and a bronze by Eumir Marcial in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, sharing the limelight are the unlaced yet hopeful Margielyn Didal (skateboarding), Carlos Edriel Yulo (gymnastics), and Ernest John “EJ” Obiena (pole vaulting) among others—who caught our hearts with their finest athleticism and respective glories that are worth celebrating and watching out for.


Margielyn’s sign of approval

Showing off her infectious smile, Didal was never short of the good vibes to spread around the Olympic stage as she performed her trickshot in the women’s street skateboarding with 7.52 endpoint. Accepting her no-medal finish in that instant, Didal continued to have fun at the event, making the most out of the rare moment. 

Didal’s cheerfulness throughout the exhibition and her extending “thumbs up” eventually caught the eyes of the sports fans around the world. This in-game mannerism of the 23 years old skateboarder was even dubbed as the “Margielyn Didal’s seal [of] approval” in the Olympics official Twitter page.


It was the first time that skateboarding was played as a medal sport in the Olympics, and sure it was a pep of a kick-off event with a piece of Margielyn’s vibrance in it. 

The Cebuana’s skateboarding journey—from being the ‘fastest feet in the East’ to the Olympic skatepark—broke barriers for the benefit of the sport in the Philippines, which continues to grow today.

For now, we look forward to what more this Filipina can achieve and where she will spread her positive attitude next—maybe in Paris?

Youngest Yulo

Before the Olympic vault, Carlos Edriel Yulo was already turning heads internationally after winning a gold medal at the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships. After all, who could forget his top-tier spins and clean landings in the floor exercise event that bought him the ticket to Tokyo?

The then 19 years old Yulo was marked as a formidable opponent when he represented the country once more in the 2019 South-East Asian (SEA) Games. 

Two years later, after a hiatus and the delay of the summer games, Yulo was ready to face the best gymnasts of the world at the age of 21. 

After failing to replicate his floor exercise from 2019, he turned his focus to the Olympic men’s vault category and spun his way through the finals. This served as his last shot of earning a medal. 

With a promising score of 14.716, Yulo landed in fourth place, a 0.17 mark away from the now bronze medalist Artur Davtyan of Armenia, while Shin Jea-hwan of Korea bested the vault with 14.783 points. 

Following his Olympic debut, this young dynamo definitely deserved an encore from the sporting fans not just for his performance, but also for being the first Filipino gymnast to reach such a spot.


Obiena’s tenacity

As the first Filipino to qualify in this year’s summer games, EJ Obiena’s goal was clear from day one—he was there to win and reach for the zenith of the men’s pole vault. 

During the finals, while Obiena was making his third and final attempt, the bar apparatus at the top suddenly moveda technical issue that distracted Obiena and urged him to make his plea to the athletics officials. After a moment of discussion, he was eventually given the chance to redo his last leap with a 5.80 measurement.       
Finally, Obiena had secured the 11th rank, fighting tooth-and-nail against corrival pole vaulters of the world. 

EJ Obiena explained his plea fresh from the competition, “if I truly believe I’m right, I would always talk but in a good manner. I just say this is my perspective. I would want to see it but hopefully, you would understand it and I would want to fight for it.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) President, Popoy Jucio saw Obiena’s performance that granted him another attempt as proof of his ‘desire to win’, making sure that every leap counts.

For participating in the games alone, the 25 years old Olympian made himself known for being the only Asian standout who qualified in the Tokyo encounter. Given his tenacity, only time will tell how much more remains in store for Obiena, but we can definitely look forward to how he plans to raise the bar once more for the country’s next Olympic campaign.  


Margielyn Didal, Carlos Yulo, and EJ Obiena were all first-timers in the recently concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But without a doubt, all of them are exceptional in what they do considering the challenges they needed to get through before qualifying.

We can only imagine now what they can surmount in the next chapter of their sporting journey and unpack world records on their own fields.

As we share both their bumps and triumphs, they will remain as banners of the Filipino sports internationally, giving us more reason to believe and be inspired by what greatness Filipinos are capable of. These athletes are just among the many that exemplified their mental and physical capacities from which we can learn a thing or two, with their positive attitudes and efforts each deserving medals of their own.

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