The Forgotten Athletes: Pinoys in Hitler's Olympics

The 1936 Summer Olympics has been one of the most controversial and politically-charged sporting event in history as it combined the Olympic ideals of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" with the Nazi ideals of racial superiority of the ubermenschen. Eminent German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl captured the moments of the games in the highly-acclaimed documentary "Triumph of the Will" wherein it epitomized Adolf Hitler's ascent to the world stage.


The 1936 Summer Olympics has been one of the most controversial and politically-charged sporting event in history as it combined the Olympic ideals of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" with the Nazi ideals of racial superiority of the ubermenschen. Eminent German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl captured the moments of the games in the highly-acclaimed documentary "Triumph of the Will" wherein it epitomized Adolf Hitler's ascent to the world stage.

But in the obscure and unknown events in the games is the participation of the Philippines, the only colony to participate separately from its colonial masters, the United States. This is the fourth Olympics that the country has participated and is hoping to improve from its three-bronze medal haul at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

The unfortunate thing about recalling about our sports history is that we have forgotten the athletes that competed and even winning medalists. Another thing to point out is that it's very difficult to find pictures of the athletes that competed in their respective disciplines. This article will try to describe the exploits of the people who brought glory to our country.

The Road to Berlin

The Philippines had a relatively successful pre-Olympic performance at the 1934 Far Eastern Games in Manila. The best athletes include two-time Olympic bronze medalist Teofilo Yldefonso, 1932 Los Angeles Olympic bronze medalist Simeon Toribio and the legendary Olympic basketball squad led by Ambrosio Padilla, Jacinto Ciria Cruz, Charles Borck and Bibiano Ouano. Though not expected to be a force to reckon with, the Philippines came off a successful campaign in Los Angeles and hope to improve its performance.

The National Olympic Committee was headed by Jorge Vargas with Dr. Regino Ylanan as secretary.

The Germans prepared their Olympics so well that they forever changed the way it is hosted. They introduced the lighting of the Olympic torch overshadowed by a breathtaking opening ceremonies that included the massive Hindenburg blimp that captivated the mammoth crowd at the Olympiastadion. These remarkable events were captured by Riefenstahl's documentary films and television cameras. Several television viewing stations were installed in various areas of the city.


The Philippine flag was raised in the Olympic village with Hitler Youth members in the foreground

All 34 athletes and officials arrived in Berlin on July 4, 1936 and were billeted at the Olympic village together with the Bolivians, Argentines and French. The German specially prepared this massive residential buildings for the athletes from the food to the various services offered. Despite the atmosphere of racism, Nazi policy of internationalism was the rule throughout the games.
Map of the Olympic Village
The German Olympic Committee even assigned an attache (a certain Lt. Bretschneider) to assist in all negotiations between the organizing committee and the Philippine Olympic team. Lt. Bretschneider, a young Wermacht officer experienced in sport and versed in foreign languages, has a duty to advise and assist the team members in a comradely manner whenever his services were requested. Postal services are organized for each countries. Catering was excellent and as a matter of fact, dietary requirements were even observed. In this case, the Philippines had "Meat well done and served with rice or vegetables (no spina[ch] or cauliflower); large quantities of fruit, especially apples; tea, but little coffee; one lemon per person per day; no honey or cheese."


A Nazi military attache talking to Filipino athletes
Only three reporters from the Philippines covered the Olympic games so there is not much coverage being devoted and recorded for posterity. In the parade of nations, the Philippines is one of the last few countries to enter the Olympiastadion together with Peru and Poland.


Filipino athletes entering the Olympiastadion

Going into the competition, the athletes were fired up and prepared themselves to be in this world-class 'Cold War' between the likes of Jesse Owens and the United States' selection of black 'super athletes' against the Aryans of the fatherland.

Let the Games Begin!

A) Athletics
Given the small frame and stature, Filipinos are able runners with the likes of Simeon Toribio and Miguel White. Just prior to the games, the athletic team's training is already launched in full gear.


Athletics team in training
The 19-year-old Nemesio de Guzman is the youngest member of the Olympic team, entered in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash but sadly he was eliminated in the preliminary heats. He clocked in 11.1 seconds for 3rd in the 7th heat of the 100 meter dash with Jesse Owens eventually winning the gold in world record time of 10.3 seconds. He was also eliminated in the 3rd heat of the 200 meter dash with another world record run by Owens in 20.7 seconds.

De Guzman's teammate Antonio Salcedo likewise did not fare well as he also bowed out from the competition. He finished 4th in the 3rd heat of the 100 meter dash and 5th in the 3rd heat of the 200 meter dash.
Miguel White won the bronze medal
Miguel White, the country's best hope, faltered in the preliminary heats of the 110 meter hurdles by ending at a disastrous 5th place in the 6th heat. Hoping for a redemption, White entered in the 400 meter hurdles in a competitive field led by World and Olympic record holder Glenn Hardin of the United States. He topped the 3rd heat (53.4 seconds) over eventual silver medalist John Loaring of Canada (54.3 seconds). In the 1st heat of the semifinals, White gave favorite Hardin a run for his money as they engaged in a photofinish run with Hardin (53.2 seconds) barely escaping White (53.4 seconds) in a split-second difference. In the finals, White clocked in his personal best of 52.8 seconds but it was not enough as the closely contested race left him in third as Hardin won the gold (52.4 seconds) and Loaring squeaking past White for the silver (52.7 seconds). Nevertheless, White won the only Olympic medal for the country.


A split-second finish cost White the gold medal
White's teammate Teodoro Malasig was eliminated in the 4th heat of the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 56.1 seconds. Three-time Olympian Simeon Toribio entered the high jump competition hoping to improve his bronze medal finish in the previous Olympics but wasn't able to top his personal best. Though he reached the final round, he wasn't able to win a medal.


1932 Olympics bronze medalist Simeon Toribio
Compatriot Nino Ramirez wasn't fortunate as we was eliminated in the preliminary round of the broad jump event.

B) Basketball
The Philippines has dominated the Asian circuit in the 1920's and 1930's that it is safe to assume that the team will do well in the inaugural Olympic basketball tournament. Since it hasn't played against non-Asian national teams, the Philippines is considered a darkhorse.

The team is composed of Charles Borck, Jacinto Ciria Cruz, Franco Marquicias, Primitivo Martinez, Jesus Marzan, Amador Obordo, Bibiano Ouano, Ambrosio Padilla, John Worrell and Fortunato Yambao.


Filipino cagers battling against the Mexicans
The Philippines received a bye in the first round and advanced to the second round to face a tall Mexican team. Their gritty plays surprised the Mexicans in a thrilling 32-30 win. In the third round, they bludgeoned the bewildered Estonians 39-22 to reach the fourth round against the highly-talented American squad led by Joe Fortenberry. The Americans overwhelmed the Filipinos 56-23. The lost relegated them to the consolation rounds as the Philippines defeated Italy 32-14 and Uruguay 33-23 to end up fifth. The United States won the gold against Canada in a low scoring affair while the biggest surprise of the tournament is that Mexico won the bronze medal even though they lost to the Philippines in the preliminary round.

C) Boxing

Filipino boxers fought with tenacity and unequalled fury in this tournament but weren't so lucky as they fell one by one. Oscar de Larrazabal and Jose Padilla Jr. reached the quarterfinals. In the flyweight division, Felipe Nunag defeated Panaitescu of Romania in the preliminary bout but was defeated by Degrysse of Belgium in the second bout thereby eliminating him from the competition. In the bantamweight division, Oscar de Larrazabal defeated V. Frederiksen of Denmark and Stasch of Germany to set up a quarterfinal match against eventual silver medalist Jackie Wilson of the United States in the quarterfinals. But Wilson overwhelmed Larrazabal by points. In the featherweight division, Felipe Gabuco's Olympic stint ended prematurely as his first fight against Kara of the United States in a no-contest. In the lightweight division, Jose Padilla Jr. defeated Schmedes of Germany and Cvraniak of Poland to arrange a quarterfinal match against eventual gold medalist Imre Harangi of Hungary. Harangi crushed Padilla on points. In the welterweight division, Simplicio de Castro started on a winning note against Sancassiani of Luxembourg but lost to Tritz of France on points.

D) Swimming

The Philippine Olympic swimming team is composed of Muslim swimmers, a Fil-Danish sensation and a two-time Olympic bronze medalist. In the 100 meter freestyle, three men entered the event that includes Jikirum Adjaluddin, Enrique Jurado and Jose Obial. Adjaluddin clocked in second (1:01.0) behind French-Williams of Great Britain (1:00.7) in the 3rd heat. However, Adjaluddin placed 5th in the 1st semifinal heat for a personal best time of 1:00.5. Both Jurado and Obial were eliminated in the preliminary heats. In the 100 meter backstroke, Fil-Danish sensation Nils Christensen placed 3rd in the 3rd preliminary heat to qualify to the semifinals. Unfortunately, despite a personally-best time, Christensen wound up 5th in the first semifinal heat.

In the 200 meter breaststroke, the chances for the Philippines were good as three swimmers qualified for the semifinal heats as Adjaluddin finish 4th, Arsad Alpad finished 2nd and Teofilo Yldefonso finished 2nd in the preliminary heats. But two swimmers missed the cut in the semifinal heats as Adjaluddin and Alpad finished 5th and 6th in the 1st semifinal heat and Yldefonso managed to qualify for the final heat by winding up 4th in the 2nd semifinal heat. In the finals, Yldefonso finished last. The Philippines' participation in the 800 meter relay was also a disastrous finish as the team placed 4th in the preliminary heat as Japan went on to win the gold.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: The Forgotten Athletes: Pinoys in Hitler's Olympics
The Forgotten Athletes: Pinoys in Hitler's Olympics
The 1936 Summer Olympics has been one of the most controversial and politically-charged sporting event in history as it combined the Olympic ideals of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" with the Nazi ideals of racial superiority of the ubermenschen. Eminent German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl captured the moments of the games in the highly-acclaimed documentary "Triumph of the Will" wherein it epitomized Adolf Hitler's ascent to the world stage.
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