Basketeers save the day for PH in 1956

After going home earning points courtesy of Rodrigo del Rosario, who finished fifth in the featherweight division of weightlifting in 1948 in London and fourth in 1952 in Helsinki, the Philippine contingent in 1956 in Melbourne had nothing but flat egg to show their countrymen back home upon returning from the 16-day sojourn.

Only a seventh place finish fashioned out by the national basketball team skippered by dribbling wizard Antonio Genato saved the day for the 57-man contingent in the Games boycotted by seven countries.

Shooting wars, including the Suez crisis and the Soviet invasion of Hungary, made mockery of the semblance of international goodwill and led to the bitter Olympic boycott by Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.

Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga in action during his San Beda heydays in the NCAA. PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

The communist Chinese refused to compete when Nationalist China (Taiwan) was invited. Political issues spilled over the vicious water polo semifinal between the USSR and Hungary turning it into a bloody “boxing match under water.”

Love, though, conquered the Cold War jitters that, after the Games, American Harold Conolly, gold medalist in the hammer throw, married Czech Olympic discus champion Olga Fikotova with long distance king Emil Zatopek standing as best man.

As the host country’s powerful swimmers dominated the pool with eight gold medals, the Filipino basketeers, led by namesakes and domestic archrivals Carlos the “Big Difference” Loyzaga and Carlos “Boom Boom” Badion, swept their first two games and readily earned the respect of the fans.

With King Caloy controlling the paint, Badion evading his men with his patented bicycle drives, and Genato dishing out what looked like easy assists, performances seldom seen in the Down Under basketball scenes, the Filipinos disposed off Asian favorite whipping boys Thailand, 55-44, and Japan, 76-61.

Coach Leo Prieto’s boys lost to eventual gold medal winner USA, 12-53, and Uruguay, 70-79, before splitting the final two outings, including a win each over France, 55-58, and Chile, 75-68, to settle for seventh place, two notches below their predecessors, fifth in 1936, but still, up to this day, unsurpassed by any Asian nation.

Other members of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games quintet were Rafael Barreto, Ramoncito Campos, Loreto Carbonnel, Ramon Manulat, Leonardo Marquicias, Mariano Tolentino, Martin Urra and Antonio Villamor. Alternates were Francis Wilson and Mario Ballesteros.

1948 and 1952 Olympics hero del Rosario and protege Pedro Landero,, again earned their rights to represent the country in Australia, but apparently, age caught up with them as both were nowhere in the medal play.

Del Rosario ended up second to the last in the 21-man featherweight field,while Landero 16th and last in the bantamweight class.

None of the country’s four-man athletic squad showed the class of bronze medalist Simeon Toribio (long jump 1932) and and Miguel White (hurdles 1936) as Ciriaco Baronda, Pablo Soblingo, Francisca Sanopal and Manolita Cinco lasted for only the trials in their respective events.

So did the boxers — flyweight Federito Bonus, bantamweight Alberto Adela, featherweight Paulino Melendres, lightweight Celedonio

Espinosa and light-welterweight Manuel delos Santos.

The Philippines sent nine swimmers — Dakula Arabani, Jacinto Cayco, Agapito Lozada, Ulpiano Babol, Parsons Nabiula, Bana Sailani, Gertrudes Lozada and Jocelyn Von Giese, but no one, too, advanced.

The same fate shooters Enrique Beech, Hernando Castelo, Ricardo Hizon, Martin Gizon, and Cesar Jayme and wrestlers Ernesto Ramel, Mateo Tanaquin and Nicolas Areales suffered.

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