MANILA, Philippines – Receiving her accolade as one of the new inductees to the Philippine Sports Hall of Fame, former Asian sprint queen Mona Sulaiman passionately recalled how she aspired for that elusive Olympic gold and fell short.
Retired and currently in a wheelchair due to leg injury, Sulaiman could only wish that one or two of today’s Team Philippines stalwarts will finally make her dream of seeing the Phl flag being hoisted in the quadrennial games a reality.
“Pangarap ko talaga na magkaroon tayo ng gold medal sa Olympics (It’s my dream for our country to win the Olympic gold),” said Sulaiman during Monday night’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies at Century Park Hotel.
Sulaiman was the toast of the 100-meter and 200-meter run events in the 1960s, blitzing her way to three mints in the 1962 Asian Games. She competed in the Olympiad in 1960 in Rome, where she reached the quarterfinals of the century dash, and returned four years later in Tokyo.
“Noong araw, pag nagte-training ako, pag malapit na ang Olympics, nag-eensayo ako nang maigi, gusto ko talagang manalo kasi hindi pa tayo nagkakaroon ng gold medal mula pa sa simula (During my time, I double-up on training everytime the Olympics are near because I want to give our country its first-ever gold),” she said.
“Panalangin ko, sana itong susunod na Olympics magkaroon na tayo ng gold medal (I pray we’ll win the gold in the next Olympics),” she added.
Sulaiman, who slipped and injured her knee recently, was accompanied by relatives Noemi and Ernesto during the rites.
She shared the spotlight with 16 fellow greats, Grandmaster Eugene Torre, multi-titled swimmer Heidi Coloso-Espino, former world weightlifting champion Salvador del Rosario, cagers Ed Ocampo, Mariano Tolentino, and Kurt Bachmann, netters Felicisimo Ampon, Johnny Jose, and Raymundo Deyro, athletics standouts Inocencia Solis and Isaac Gomez, shooters Adolfo “Chito” Feliciano and Martin Gison, and swimmers Jacinto Cayco, Gerardo “Ral” Rosario, and Mohamad Mala.
“This award has been long time coming,” said Robert Bachmann, son of the late Kurt Bachmann, Jr. who was part of the gold-winning Phl five in the 1958 and 1962 Asiad. “I could almost hear my dad’s voice in heaven ‘it’s about freaking time.’”
Bachmann, who helped his mother Lourdes receive the award together with his brother, Alaska governor and team manager Richard Bachmann, shared his father’s mantra with the national team: “Love for country. Bayan muna (country above everything else).”
Jacinto Cayco, one of the oldest living Olympians, personally accepted his trophy.
“Ito’y napakagandang pabaon,” the 90-year-old Cayco said in jest.
Torre, Asia’s first GM, said the Hall of Fame will stoke the fire among the young athletes, who may be at a crossroads choosing between a serious sports career or recreation.
“I’m happy because this will serve as an inspiration and encouragement to our young athletes who will reach that crossroads. Sasabihin nila we will not be forgotten, kaya lalaban tayo (that’s why we will fight),” said Torre.
The inductees brought to 27 the members of the hallowed Hall of Fame. The first batch was inducted in 2010 with world boxing champions Pancho Villa, Ceferino Garcia, and Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, amateur boxer Jose Villanueva and Anthony Villanueva, the country’s first Olympic silver medalist, tracksters Simeon Toribio and Miguel White, swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso, basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga and the 1954 men’s basketball team that copped the bronze in the 1954 world championships in Brazil.