Filipino World Champions in Sports
Best of the Best
It is a real challenge to come up with a list of the country's best athletes, both past and present. Fortunately, sports institutions like the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sportswriters Association have named several athletes in their Hall of Fame or sorts.
While being guided by the lists drawn up by the country's respectable sports institutions, our own list dares to be different in the sense that it takes into account the true essence of the term "world champion". By the term world champion, an athlete must have been declared a champion in an international competition or he or she must have won at least a bronze medal in the Olympics.
Here is our own list of 27 Filipino world champions, in the order that we deem proper.
1. Bowler Rafael "Paeng" Nepomuceno, for being the "Greatest Filipino Athlete of All Time", "Athlete of the Century", and "International Bowling Athlete of the Millennium"; for receiving the prestigious International Olympic Committee (IOC) President's Trophy; for winning over 100 tournaments, including four World Cups and two other prestigious international titles; for winning an Asiad gold medal; and for still being an active player
2. Billiard player Efren "Bata" Reyes, for being declared as the best billiard player of all time; for winning the World 8-Ball championship five times; for clinching the 1999 World 9-Ball title; for winning over 100 international tournaments; and for still being an active player
3. Golfer Dorothy Delasin, for winning three world championships: the 2000 LPGA Giant Eagle Classic when she was only 19, the 2001 LPGA Giant Eagle Classic, and the Samsung World Championship; for being the Rookie of the Year in 2000; for being the Amateur Golfer of the Year in 1998; for winning the US Women's Amateur Championship, California Women's Championship, the US Girls Championship and the Junior World Cup; and for still being an active player
4. Boxer Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, for being declared "the greatest world junior lightweight boxing champion in WBC history"; for defending his title in 10 bouts for seven years, making him the longest reigning world junior lightweight champion ever; and for being inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame
5. Basketball player Carlos Loyzaga, for stirring the Philippine basketball team that placed third in the World Basketball Championship (WBC) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1954; for being named to the Mythical Team at the 1954 WBC; for being the captain of the team that won 4 Asiad gold medals; and for participating several times in the Olympic Games
6. Boxer Pancho Villa, for being considered the greatest flyweight of the century; for becoming Asia's first world champion in boxing; and for being inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame
7. Tennis player Felicisimo Ampon, for winning the Davis Cup singles championship in 1937, the singles title in the Pan-American championship in Mexico City in 1950, the Wimbledon Plate championship in 1953; and for being considered the best tennis player in the world, pound for pound
8. High jumper Simeon Toribio, for winning a bronze medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics; for winning gold medals in many Far Eastern Games; and for being considered the "Filipino Field Athlete of the Half Century" and "Asia's Best Athlete"
9. Boxer Roel Velasco, for winning a gold medal at the first Muhammad Ali Cup Invitational Boxing Championship, a silver at the 1997 World Boxing Championships, a bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and a bronze at the 1998 Goodwill Games
10. Bowler Bong Coo, for winning the 1979 World Cup and FIQ World Championship; for clinching five gold medals at the Asian Games; and for collecting over 100 national and international awards
11. Shooter Jethro "the Jet" Dionisio, for being considered the world's fastest shooter and for being a six-time world champion in pistol shooting; and for still being an active player
12. Billiard player Francisco "Django" Bustamante, for being declared the world's number 1 billiard player in 1998; for winning an Asiad gold medal in 2002; for bagging the World Pool Masters Championship twice; for winning several other international tournaments; and for still being an active player
13. Boxer Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco, for clinching the country's second Olympic silver medal in 1996 and an Asiad gold medal in 1994
14. Swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso, for winning two Olympic bronze medals in swimming
15. Boxer Ceferino Garcia, for being the heaviest Filipino boxer who became a world champion when he knocked out world middleweight champion Fred Apostoli in New York in 1939; and for being inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame and into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1981
16. Chess player Eugene Torre, for being Asia's first grandmaster in 1974; and for stirring the Philippine team that placed 7th at the 1988 Greece Olympiad
17. Bowler Arianne Cerdena, for winning an Olympic gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, although her medal was not included in the regular medal tally; and for representing the country in many Southeast Asian Games
18. Boxer Luisito Epinosa, for holding two different world-boxing titles: the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight crown and the World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight belt; and for being one of the longest reigning Filipino world champion
19. Boxer Manny Pacquiao, for becoming an International Boxing Federation (IBF) world super bantamweight champion and World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight champion; and for still being an active player
20. Sprinter Lydia de Vega, for winning two gold medals in the 100-meter dash at the 1982 New Delhi Asiad and 1986 Seoul Asiad
21. Boxer Ben Villaflor, for becoming world junior lightweight champion at the age of 18 years old; and for defending his title from 1972 to 1976
22. Swimmer Haydee Coloso-Espino, for collecting a total of three gold, five silver, and two bronze medals from the Asian Games in the 1950s and 1960s
23. Boxer Erbito Salavarria, for becoming the World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight champion and the Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight champion
24. Boxer Gerry Penalosa, for winning two titles: the World Boxing Council (WBC) super flyweight crown and the World Boxing Association (WBA) North American junior bantamweight title
25. Boxer Anthony Villanueva, for winning a silver medal in a close match with Russian Stanislave Stephaskin in featherweight finals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
26. Weightlifter Salvador del Rosario, for winning a gold medal in the flyweight division of the World Weightlifting Championships held in Columbus, Ohio, USA in 1970
27. Racer Angelo Barreto, for winning several times at the European Endurance Touring Car Circuit in 2000 and at the Group N Touring Cars Championships also in Europe; and for clinching the championship in Le Mans Classic in France in September 2002
While we limit the list to only 27 athletes, we also recognize the fact that other athletes should have also been in the list. Among such athletes are Frankie Minoza, Roberto Cruz, Ambrosio Padilla, Inocencia Solis, Mona Sulaiman, Mark Rosales, Julita Tayo, Jose "Amang" Parica, Ben Arda, Lolita Reformado, Miguel White, Jose "Cely" Villanueva, Pedro Adigue, Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, Dodi Boy Penalosa, Leopoldo Serantes, Jennifer Rosales, Andres Franco, Elma Muros, Lauro Mumar, Angeline Dumapong, Rolando Navarette, Adolfo Feliciano, Purita Jacinto, Lita dela Rosa, Frank Cedeno, Bea Lucero, among others.