Filipino hopes are high that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will break new ground for Pinoy athletes.
Top of the list of potential podium-toppers include golfer Yuka Saso, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, gymnast Carlos Yulo, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and boxers Eumir Marcial and Nesthy Petecio.
The country's first ever medal at the Games was won by swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso who wore bronze after the men's 200m backstroke at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.
Since then the Philippines have celebrated a total of 10 Olympic medals: Three silver and seven bronze, with that elusive gold medal pending.
So who could write their name into Olympic immortality for the Philippines?
Hidilyn Diaz: Woman on a mission
Hidilyn Diaz is no stranger to ripping up the history books.
The Rio 2016 silver medallist became the first woman from the Philippines to win an Olympic medal, inspiring an entire generation of young Filipinas to dream big.
Now she's on a mission to take that next step and empower women even further by becoming the first person to claim gold.
Diaz' life work has been dedicated to breaking down barriers and blazing a trail for both women and men in weightlifting, and now there's an entire generation following in her footsteps.
Diaz has paved the way, putting Filipino weightlifting on the map, now others are following and just imagine what a gold medal in Tokyo would do for women and for weightlifting across the country.
Yuka Saso: The golfer with gold on her mind
Hidilyn Diaz isn't the only Filipina threat out to grab that first ever gold, Yuka Saso is another ground-breaker in with a shot.
Saso is the first golfer from her country to win a major and she did it as a teenager.
A near obsession with Rory McIlroy’s swing has lead to her to fashioning a fine swing of her own and now that the two have met they can continue the conversation at the Kasumigaseki Country Club when the Tokyo 2020 golf competition tees off from 29 July – 1 August 2021 (men) and 4–7 August 2021 (women).
The signs were there early that great things were to come from this Filipina-Japanese prodigy, she told Olympics.com where and how her remarkable rise began.
"I was born in Philippines, I grew up there," she said, "but we moved to Japan when I was four or five."
"I couldn't speak Japanese and I didn't have any friends so my dad brought me to the driving range, to the golf course, that's the only thing that I did."
A young Yuka just kept getting better and better.
In 2018 Saso won the Philippines' first ever women's golf title at the Asian Games, then doubled down in the team event, also coming close to a podium finish at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games.
She turned pro in 2019 and by 19 already had her first major, this history making hitter is just getting started.
After her US Open win, Saso has become used to being big news, and the biggest headline of all may await in Japan, where she’ll play on a course that she already knows.
“It would be my dream too to win an Olympic gold medal." – Yuka Saso
Carlos Yulo: World champ eyes golden moment
When Yulo became 2019 World floor exercise champion in Stuttgart he was the first to top the podium in Filipino red white and blue.
Now he's set on flexing his way to Olympic glory, the first Filipino to become a gymnastics World champ could be the first to win a gold medal.
“It would mean a lot to me because I practise really hard, every single day, especially right now,” Yulo told Olympics.com in an interview about his chances of claiming that gold medal.
“I don’t have time to waste. It really would mean a lot.” - Carlos Yulo
At the end of 2020 Yulo was world No.1 in floor, now he sits in third on the International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) latest rankings behind Israeli athlete Artem Dolgopyat and Spanish gymnast Rayderley Zapata.
Yulo will also compete in vault and parallel bars and has a chance of making a podium there too. Having already proved he has what it takes to beat the best in the world, can he repeat it on the Olympic stage?
Over a hundred million people hope so.
Nesthy Petecio: Punching up
There's a word for the Filipino fighting spirit that you'll hear on the streets of Manila and across the archipelago, they call it 'Pusong Palaban.'
It's a source of pride for Filipinos across the world and one of its greatest expressions is evident in the boxing ring. At Tokyo 2020 there are some real hopes that boxers could bring that coveted Olympic gold medal home.
In all, Filipino athletes have won ten medals at the Olympics, and eight of them have come in the ring:
Two silvers (Atlanta 1996, Tokyo 1964) and three bronze (1932 Los Angeles, Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992).
But despite this rich heritage, a Filipino boxer hasn't stepped up onto an Olympic podium since Atlanta 1996 when Mansueto Velasco secured a silver medal.
Now Nesthy Petecio is coming out swinging at two big firsts: The first Filipina woman to win a boxing medal and the first Filipino to bring home gold.
Petecio became a world champion at the 2019 AIBA Women’s Boxing World Championships, defeating local favourite Liudmila Vorontsova in Russia.
Now ranked second in the world in the 57kg category, Petecio is a serious contender to top the podium in Tokyo.
Her main rival and No.1 in this division is Chinese Taipei’s Yu-Ting Lin who finished third at the 2019 world championships.
With world No.7 Stanimira Petrova from Bulgaria and No.5 Karriss Artingstall already losing out to the Filipina hope, expect a nation to be glued to the action when Nesthy steps into the ring.
When Manny Pacquiao’s in your corner
Petecio isn’t the only fighter in with a strong shout, Eumir Marcial is out to pen his own page of history.
Seen as a natural successor to Pacquiao back home, he told Olympics.com that Pac-Man's advice has been crucial to his career.
Marcial, chosen as the Philippines’ flagbearer, arrives from his training camp in Colorado in mean form with that podium in his sights.
In 2019 the Filipino fighter took silver at the Worlds with current AIBA rankings’ No.1 Gleb Bakshi getting the better of him.
Since then there’s been some disappointment for 25-year-old Marcial, he finished third at an Olympic tune-up in Dubai in March, but the Zamboanga City man is determined to give it his all when that bell rings in Japan.
“Of course I feel the pressure to win an Olympic gold medal. But the pressure is always there,” Marcial said, as reported in Filipino outlet businessmirror.com.
“I’m inspired not only by my family but the entire country.”
Marcial and Petecio aside, two more Pinoy athletes have qualified in Irish Magno (Women’s 51kg), and Carlo Paalam (Men’s 52kg).
Experienced Australian coach Don Abnett has been working with the fighters and he’s excited by what he sees.
“I think they are all going to get a chance,” he told Olympics.com.
EJ Obiena: Olympic dreams now Olympic goals
Another Filipino taking on the world is pole vaulter EJ Obiena.
He gets better with every jump, with every competition, and is climbing towards that crucial 6m mark.
Resetting his personal best at 5.87m from 5.85 in the Irena Szewinska Memorial Bydgoszcz in Poland in early July, Obiena is flying high and insists that he is in the mix for the gold medal in Tokyo.
When Olympics.com asked him what the goal is he didn’t hesitate:
"Win the gold, that's it man. That's a really hard goal to achieve, but that's the goal. That's why I'm doing all of this, not to get second and not to get third... to win it."
"When it comes to Olympics, I believe it's the guy who wants it most,” EJ continues.
“How many people get in the final... 12 people? Those 12 people have the same equal chance to get that gold, but it's the guy who wants it most that gets it. That's why Thiago... I think he wanted that Rio gold really bad.”
Talent and self-belief are a powerful mix, watch out for EJ Obiena in Tokyo, he’s the pride of Filipino track and field.
Margie Didal: Debut gold at debut Games?
Just 22 years old, Didal is ready to take it from the streets of Cebu to the Tokyo big-time and pull off a huge shock by riding off with that gold medal around her neck.
Didal exploded onto the scene with podium-topping performances at the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, rolling into new ground when she became the first Filipino rider to compete at global skateboarding events like the Street League Skateboarding in London and X Games Minneapolis.
She isn't there just to make up the numbers either, Didal finished in third place at the the first ever Women's 2020 Tampa Pro Competition.
Now ranked in the top 15 skaters in the world, Didal is out to spring a surprise when she makes her debut at skateboarding's Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The youngest of five children, Didal's father is a carpenter and her mother sells kwek kwek - A type of duck egg fried in orange batter - on the street, she's come a long way already and is enjoying the ride.
Philippines Tokyo 2020 Olympic team
Elsewhere, athletes looking to cause a scene on the big stage include judoka Kiyomi Watanabe (Women’s -63 kg), rower Cris Nievarez who’ll compete in the men's single sculls, Taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa (Men's −58 kg) and Jayson Valdez who’ll take aim in the men's 10 m air rifle.