Genaro Saavedra: ‘Iron Man’ of 1915 Far Eastern Games

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The 1915 Far Eastern Championship Games, the second edition of the regional multi-event conclave, among the top athletes from China, Japan and the Philippines, held from May 15 to 22, 1915 in Shanghai, Republic of China with the host country’s President Yan Shikai declaring the Games open.

The inclusion of cycling raised the total number of sports disputed from the eight held at the first edition in Manila two years ago when the triangular meet was also called the Oriental Olympic Games to nine.

The Chinese were determined to win back on the sports field some of what they had lost on the battlefields and succeeded in toppling the Philippines as the general champion, reigning supreme in football, swimming, volleyball and pentathlon.

The Filipinos, overall winner in the 1913 staging in Mania, were relegated to second place overall retaining though their titles in track and field and basketball, while dethroning the Japanese as baseball kingpins. Japan took over the singles and double evens in tennis from the Philippines.


PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

As in the 1913 inaugurals, the Filipino sprinters lorded it over their Japanese and Chinese rivals to keep the athletic championship within this shore with Pio Robillos emerging the winner anew in the 220-yard dash while leading the country’s 4×220-yard relay team to a repeat in connivance with teammates G. Quintana, Nicolas Llaneta and Genaro Saavedra.

Saavedra succeeded where Robillos and 1913 three-gold medal winner Regino Ylanan failed winning in the 100-yard race and three other individual golds—high jump, pole vault and decathlon, crowing himself the Asia’s first “Iron Man.” He went home with a total four gold-haul counting the 4×220-yard relay.

Ylanan, the biggest hero in Manila in with three-gold-harvest, lost his pentathlon and discus throw titles but remained the top shot putter in the field. He joined the national baseball team in emerging the new champion, which was then the nation’s favorite pastime.

Paulino Samarinas, likewise, retained his 880-yard run crown, Jose Lozada the 220-yard hurdles, while Emilio Samson, silver medallist in 1913, succeeded Ylanan as discus throw titlist.

Tirso Garia, Jovito Gozales, Eustaquio Sebastian, Pascual Torres and Jose Wilson again powered the national basketeers and remained champion. They were joined this time by first timers Constantino Rabaya, Bernardo Silverio, and Catalino Ylanan.

Among the members of the new baseball champion Philippine IX, besides Regino Ylanan, were Filomeno Arteche, Hipolito Baclay, Felix Cezar, Pedro Manique, Cristino Pangilinan, Ismael Perez and Hugo Ramas.

J.H. Crocker, the Chinese YMCA national physical director, observed: ‘For the first time men from the north, south, east and west of the country’s borders stood together in a united stand cheered for China under the banner of patriotism to show the solidarity of their nationhood, competing and hosting their first and biggest international sports event.

On the way to the general championship, the Chinese athletes broke five Asian records. Wang Zhengting, the chairman of the organizing committee, wrote after the Games that they had taken place at a time when the country was in crisis and people were disappointed and worried about the future of the nation.

“China’s victories in the Games gave hope to the nation. People realized the strength of the nation came from united China. They also realized that the importance of training strong bodies through sport for the future of China,” he said.

Wang’s message was clear, that competitive sport could create a strong and powerful masculine China. From 1915 the FECG became a political battlefield between China and Japan.





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