By Winlei Kim Castro, Crisdenmar Dela Cruz, Marjoe Toquillo, Denzel Gaddi, Mark Jay Abante, John Rei Salanga, Ernesto Nodado III, Welsh Osorio, Ignacius Carell Cruz, Arvin Migallos, Justine Juyad, Mark Angelo Mañez, and Diana Mae Salonoy

The year 2022 was another banner for Philippine sports. Pinoy athletes continued to carry the Filipino flag with pride and valor. Some made historic wins that frenzied the entire nation. Others had awe-inspiring comebacks to remember. A few endured heartbreaks that, nonetheless, are worthy of celebration.  

As the country continues to recover from the COVID pandemic, the sporting scene maintains to rise above the challenge and stamp the classic Filipino pride here and on the international stage. Here are Explained PH’s memorable sports tales this year.     

The Uprise of Team Sibol

Photo Courtesy of Rappler

The return of Team Sibol from its two-year slumber was quite a sight to behold. Both amateur and professional teams showcased themselves from team selection, qualification, to the international stage. 

First off, Blacklist International and Grindsky Eris led Team Sibol in the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam. They took home gold medals in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) and League of Legends: Wild Rift Women's Division, respectively. Philippine teams from League of Legends (PC) and Crossfire also bagged twin silver medals. 

However, the National team would bump into a massive roadblock in the 14th World Esports Championship in Bali, Indonesia last December. The team saw only the MLBB, and DOTA 2 delegates bag silver medal finishes against the host country, which was decent, to say the least.    

As 2023 approaches, we sure hope that Team Sibol can once again prove that our country will not be left out when it comes to Esports and will do "Lakad Matatag" to victory.

Pinay Beach Volleyball Supremacy

Photo Courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports

Pinay athletes also begin to crack the world beach volleyball scene. This year, the tandem of Sisi Rondina and Jovelyn Gonzaga prevailed in Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures after escaping fellow Pinays, Jen Eslapor and Floremel Rodriguez on December 11.

The 1-2 finish of the Rondina-Gonzaga and Eslapor-Rodriguez pair was the best performance by any Filipino team in any World Volleyball event.

Despite suffering cramps in the finals, Rondina's game-clinching points sealed the title for the Philippines after holding off teams from Europe and Asia. The Rondina-Gonzaga tandem went on to win five games in three days, overcoming foes from Canada, Czech Republic, Japan, and Israel.

Below the belt: The fall of boxing world champs

Photo Courtesy of News.comAu

2022 has been a tough year for Philippine boxing–from having five active world champs in January to no longer having a single title holder.

Longtime IBF super flyweight holder Jerwin Ancajas was the first boxer to fall following a stunning loss vs. Fernando Martinez of Argentina last February. They fought again eight months later, and Martinez proved the first fight against Ancajas was no fluke.

Filipino pug Johnriel "Quadro Alas" Casimero's bantamweight title reign also ends with a whimper. After being unable to defend it on two occasions against challenger Paul Butler, the WBO Executive Committee voted in favor of stripping Casimero's belt.

Misery continued when Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire Jr. lost his WBC bantamweight title to IBF and WBA champion Naoya "Monster" Inoue. The latter coasted to a second-round stoppage triumph in front of his home crowd.

It took a turn for the worse after WBC featherweight champ Mark "Magnifico" Magsayo and IBF minimumweight world champion Rene Cuarto both suffered heartbreaking split decision losses against Mexican boxers Rey Vargas and Daniel Valladares.

Meanwhile, Marlon Tapales and Vincent Astrolabio will hope to deliver some good news in the first quarter of 2023. As Inoue advances to the super-bantamweight division, Astrolabio will have the opportunity to become the IBF bantamweight world champion against Emmanuel Rodriguez. After a year of waiting, Tapales has finally earned a world title shot vs. IBF and WBA super-bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev. 

ALEX-ecellent journey at the 2022 US Open

Photo Courtesy of Sports Inquirer

Selfless, humble, and proud.

Despite engraving her name in sports history as the first Filipina tennis player to capture a Grand Slam title, Alex Eala remains her feet on the ground by dedicating her journey to fellow countrymen who inspired her to play.

The 17-year-old Pinay survived a 6-2, 6-4 victory over World No. 3 Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic at the 2022 US Open Junior Singles in New York City, September 11.

After presenting her trophy in front of her supporters, the young tennis star opted to speak in Filipino, delivering her words of gratitude to the Filipino tennis community that helped her throughout her tournament journey.

“Buong puso ko ito ipinaglaban. Hindi lang para sa sarili ko, kung hindi para makatulong din ako sa kinabukasan ng Philippine tennis. So hindi lang ito panalo ko, panalo nating lahat,” said an emotional Eala.

Eala was steaming with passion right after the Czech lost the title match with an unforced error in the second set. She immediately dropped her racket to go to her opponent for a handshake, joined the audience in the stands in celebration, and raced to her family for a tight hug of success.

Before the year ends, Eala now owns three junior Grand Slam titles—the girls’ double championships in the Australian Open (2020) and the French Open Tournament (2021).

SEA Games: A Bittersweet Ending

Photo Courtesy of The Manila Times

Despite failing to defend the overall crown in the regional biennial meet, the Philippines contingent still delivered with pride in the 2022 SEA Games last May.

The national delegation concluded their stint in fourth place overall with 52 golds, 70 silvers, and 104 bronze on their medal plum. 

World champion Carlos Yulo and former Pan-American medalist Aleah Finnegan displayed their winning forms in sharing the load for Filipino gymnasts. They took home a combined 7-gold, 7-silver output and are poised to take it one notch higher come the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

Other Tokyo Olympians also delivered expected outcomes with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and boxer Eumir Marcial securing their gold medals in their respective events.

Not all stints ended on a golden feat as some suffered from huge upsets. Gilas Pilipinas, in particular, surrendered their basketball supremacy to Indonesia in the 5x5 basketball event. In boxing, Olympic silver medalist Nesthy Petecio settled for bronze in the Lightweight category.  Rower Criz Nievarez also fell short of his title defense on a silver lining.

Nonetheless, the spirit in the ‘Puso’ battlecry resonates in the battles of every Filipino athlete, whatever their place may be.       

Inevitable Reawakening At Hand

Photo Courtesy of ABS-CBN News

Filipino wunderkind Carlos Edriel Yulo, who proved that dynamite comes in small packages with his stellar career, wrapped up his stint in this year's World Artistic Gymnastics Championships with a silver in men's vault and a bronze in parallel bars.

The 4-foot-11 world champion dazzled with 14.950 points in the men’s vault final, coupled with a 15.366-output in the parallel bars final. Sadly, both were not enough to defend his world titles a year ago. 

Although it was not the golden finish anticipated, the 22-year-old Olympian also drew lessons from his campaign in the Worlds.

"I was surprised that I got to compete against them. In a way, it's really good that I got to experience this competition. This was the first time that I was grouped with really good gymnasts. I had so many mental lapses. They're built differently. I want to be like them, and I look up to them," said Yulo.   

Yulo will enter his redemption arc and erupt fully loaded in 2023, as he is expected to earn a spot for qualification at the 2023 Worlds to be held in Antwerp, Belgium which will serve as a qualifying ticket to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France. The Manila-born gymnast will also battle in the Apparatus World Cup Series from January - March 2024, and then the Continental Championships from April to May 2024.

The Heaviest of all Weights

Photo Courtesy of Rappler 

It all started with a hopeful athlete, and now she carries the heaviest of all weights–the pride of the Filipino people.

After a historic golden win at the Tokyo Olympics a year ago, Hidilyn Diaz snagged the missing piece in her decorated cabinet–a World Championship gold–after hefting top-podium lifts for snatch (93 kg), clean-and-jerk (114 kg), and total score (207 kg) in the women's 55kg division in Bogota, Colombia.

Diaz now sits at global supremacy after conquering the SEA Games, Asian Games, Asian Championships, Olympics, and the World Weightlifting Championships. This is not to mention the Filipino pride she carried while shining in every international competition.  

From hope to pride, from hardships to success. The tale of Diaz continues to inspire future generations to also become formidable against the world–knowing they could achieve greatness if they believe in themselves.   

Gilas woes worse than heartbreak

Photo Courtesy of The Manila Times

As the basketball world knows, Filipinos are known for being the craftiest of players. But what if an unspecified cause resulted in 'termination' of a more-than-capable foreign coach for an old face with even outdated tactics? American-Kiwi head tactician Tab Baldwin was 'terminated' from the program in January this year, which sparked up serious fury from fans of the beloved coach. Subsequently, his successor Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes made things turn for the worse after dropping several high-profile events: the SEA Games in Vietnam last May and the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta barely two months after. Despite winning their last three qualifier friendlies this year, losing the region's most precious jewel from its golden cabinet is perhaps worse than a serious heartbreak. It will take quite a long overhaul to bring back its former glory, not to mention being the host of the world's grandest hoops fiesta: the FIBA Basketball World Cup.


Photo Courtesy of The Manila Times 

Meanwhile, the FIFA World Cup is coined as “The Most Popular Sporting Event” in the world where countries face off to glove the title of World Champions. Since its establishment in 1930, the Philippines has failed to qualify in the competition for any gender or age level. Until the dry spell ended in the AFC Women's Asian Cup. After a 1-1 draw in regulation against Chinese Taipei, a 4-3 penalty blitz sends Filipinas to its first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup slated in 2023. The Philippine Women’s National Football team completed the semis cast alongside Korea Republic, Japan, and People’s Republic of China. Filipinas also clinched its maiden title in the AFF Women’s Championship by erasing powerhouse Thailand, 3-0, in the championship match. They also took home bronze in the 31st SEA Games, their first podium finish in 37 years. To wrap things up, the Sarina Bolden-led Filipinas grabbed the program-best 53rd in the world football rankings. What a way to cap off their breakout year?


Photo Courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports

Just like a blazing phoenix, one athlete rose up from the ashes to undertake his best season run to date. Bagging feats a Filipino was yet to achieve prior, pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena cemented a bronze podium finish at the flagship World Athletics Championships after marking 5.94 meters in two attempts. Such performance allowed the Asian prodigy to soar three spots up to become World No. 3. He is only trailing behind No. 1 and world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden and No. 2 Christopher Nilsen of USA. EJ’s hunt for glory did not end there as he also saw a gold rush in August, highlighted by his win over arguably the greatest pole vaulter Duplantis in Brussels in September. Yet just like tales as old as time, his journey to the top was not all rainbows and glitter. This year, Obiena's rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) on liquidation reporting issues stayed ablaze. And as if not enough, he was met with several more complications from budget cuts and embassy issues, to injuries and COVID-19 infection. As PATAFA eventually barred him from competing in the IAAF World Indoor Championships, Obiena saw a glimpse of redemption after settling the four-month controversy and being reinstated in the national pool. Obiena’s redemption journey epitomizes a roller coaster ride as he leaps over the hurdles of athletic life while continuing to deliver national pride. And for someone who may have been through the lowest of lows, the only way now is up. Indeed, when it rains, it pours — well, at least that was the summary of the country’s top flag bearers in 2022. Despite the downpour of challenges in the past year, Filipino athletes continued to redefine resilience, courage, and honor. Only time can tell when the rainbow shines upon these outstanding athletes and teams, as they strive for the pot of gold that deservingly awaits them in the years to come.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: • UP Fighting Maroons' storied UAAP Men's Basketball title since 1986 • Ateneo Blue Eagles' comeback in UAAP Men's Basketball • National University Bulldogs' domination in UAAP Women's Volleyball • Letran Knights' third straight championship in NCAA Men's Basketball • First staging of Ronda Pilipinas post-pandemic

Edited by Kyla Balatbat