Not so empty Olympic feeling

Filipino-American Kyla Ross bits the gold medal she won as member of the U.S. Artistic Gymnastic team in the London Olympics. (Getty Images)

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – With the 11-member Philippine team coming home from the Olympics empty-handed, Filipino-Americans are cheering the medal-winning feats of Filipino-Americans on the U.S. team to provide them some measure of pride.

At least two athletes with Filipino heritage have won medals in London, and many in the large Filipino-American community across the U.S., including Las Vegas, have claimed them as their own.

Swimmer Natalie Coughlin, born in Vallejo, Calif., and loves the lumpia her grandmother from the Philippines often cook,  won a bronze in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay, even though she was not part of the team in the final swim.

According to Yahoo Sports, she swam a leg in the preliminaries, helping the U.S. qualify. But for the final, the Americans went with teenager Missy Franklin and Jessica Hardy, and brought back Olympic rookie Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt.

They finished in 3 minutes, 34.24 seconds, an American record.

Coughlin, whose six medals in Beijing were the most by an American woman at one Olympics, didn’t qualify for an individual event in London. She finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. trials to be considered for the relay.

But easily, the most popular U.S. athlete among Filipino-Americans was gymnast Kyla Ross, who is also part Japanese, Puerto Rican and African-American.

Ross , the youngest in the team at 15, was a member of the the team that won the gold for the U.S. in Artistic gymnastics.

In much the same way that Filipinos and Filipino-Americans rooted for Jessica Sanchez in the American Idol competition, Ross was the object of affection, and the subject of an intense online debate about “adopting” an athlete who obviously is an American.

“The fact is, she’s still Filipino and we’re proud of her,” said Amie Belmonte, a leader in the Filipino-American community is Las Vegas, which numbers around 30,000, the largest Asian group in the city.

Ross, who competed in the balance beam, said the U.S. team pulled for each other.

“We all did our events the best that we could and hit our routines, and we are all really proud of each other,” said the Hawaii-born beauty, whose father, Jason, is half-African-American and half-Japanese.
Ross, whose mother, Kiana Ross, is half-Filipino and half-Puerto Rican, contributed scores of 14.933 on the uneven bars and 15.133 on the balance beam toward the American team’s gold medal finish.
The last Filipino competitor, Daniel Caluag, crashed out of the medal round in BMX competition.
It marked the fourth straight time that the Philippines has failed to win a medal in the Olympic Games since competing in 1924.
The country has won nine medals, including two silvers, both in boxing. Anthony Villanueva won a silver in Tokyo in 1964 and Mansueto Velasco duplicated the feat in 1996 in Atlanta.
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