Retired Pinoy Sports Legends Who Changed the Game

Retired Pinoy Sports Legends Who Changed the Game: Where Are They Now?

Nowadays, Filipino athletes are being recognized in the sports scene around the world. But before that, there are several Filipino athletes who left a mark and became an inspiration for the younger generation. These retired athletes are the backbone of the sports history as they left an impact on their chosen sports. 

Celebrating retired athletes is not new as Filipinos respect and acknowledge how they paved the way. Their contributions to their respective sports–how they broke records and achieved victory–is how they managed to put forward the Philippine flag.

As an acclamation to their historic victory, let us go down the memory lane and list down the top five of the all-time greatest retired Filipino athletes, what are their contributions and where are they now.

The following retired athletes have shown immense determination in their line of sports and have become an inspiration to younger generations. Their contribution to sports history is proof that hard work really do pay-off. While the journey might have not been easy, the legacy they have created with so much passion and sportsmanship is the main foundation of Philippine sports today.


1. Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno

Paeng Nepomuceno is a Filipino bowler turned coach who is a six time World Bowling Champion. He has won the World Cup of Bowling four times: in 1976, 1980, 1992, and 1996. In 1984, Paeng won the World’s Invitational Tournament. In 1999, he became the first and only bowling athlete to be awarded with the prestigious International Olympic Committee President’s Trophy. In the same year,  Paeng was also named International Bowling Athlete of the Millennium by the Federation Internationale des Quilleurs and won the World Tenpin Masters championship.

He was also dubbed as the greatest international bowler in history by the Guiness Book of World Records. He currently holds three unbroken records which are “Youngest World Tenpin Bowling Champion”, “Most Bowling World Cups won in Three Different Decades”, and “Most Worldwide titles in a career”.

Today, Paeng is the trustee of the Philippine Bowling Federation and serves as a sports lecturer at the University of the Philippines.


2. Elma Muros

Elma Muros

Elma Muros-Posadas also known as the “Long Jump Queen” of the Philippines. She is also a heptathlon champion and was awarded as a two-time PSA Athlete of the Year in 1993 and 1995.

She started competitively at an early age of 14 as she was involved in track and field. From there, Elma was scouted by local officials who are looking for a potential athlete for the Southern Tagalog Regional Association sporting meet.

She then won a total of 15 gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games which is a record number in the athletics competition. There was also a time in the 1995 Southeast Asian Games where she dominated the sprints winning both 100 and 200 meters. Elsa also competed in the long jump event at the Olympic Games in 1984 and 1996. She also represented the Philippines at the World Championships in Athletics in four various occasions: 400m hurdles in 1991, long jump in 1993 and 1995, and 100 meters in 1997. Along with that, she also participated at the IAAF World Indoor Championships last 1985, 1989, 1993, 1995, and 1997 in sprint and long jump.

Elma Muros was also a two-time medalist at the Asian Games wherein she bagged the bronze medal in long jump in 1994 and 400 meters hurdles in 1990. Along with that, she won four medals in the long jump category at the Asian Athletics Championships taking home silver medals in 1983 and 1989 and bronze medals in 1993 and 1995.

Along with her accomplishments, she also holds several Filipino records for 400m hurdles (57.57 seconds), 5346 points for heptathlon, 4×400 meters relay (3:40.9 minutes), indoor 200 meters (25.05 seconds), and indoor long jump (6.11 m).

She retired last 2001 and appeared several times on a reality TV show called Survivor Philippines. She has her own biographical and loosely-based independent movie titled Thelma.In 2016, Elma Muros was reportedly working at Brent International School, University of the Philippines, and Jose Rizal University where she trains the youth in sports. Last 2017, she received her first-ever Palarong Pambansa Lifetime Achievement Award.


3. Bong Coo

Bong Coo

Olivia “Bong” Coo is well-known in the field of bowling. Regarded as the most decorated Filipino athlete, she was able to bag a total of 78 medals for the Philippine National team in both regional and world competitions. Bong was also a four-time world champion, Philippine Sports Hall of Fame and a World Bowling Hall of Fame.

She won her first gold medal at the 1970 Asian Zone Championships in Singapore. Then two years later, she won five gold medals out of six at the 1972 Asian Zone Championships which was held in Malaysia.

In 1978, she won every gold medal but one at the Asian Games. After that, she was offered $10,000 and a lifetime of free bowling by Jose Puyat who owns numerous bowling alleys.

She is the first Filipino athlete to make it to the Guiness Book or World Records twice. Under her belt are a total of 137 championship titles with one Masters title for 20 consecutive years.

In 2004, she was named “top 24 international bowlers of all-time” by the Bowlers Journal International edition and in 2013, she was named as one of the “greatest international bowlers of all-time”.

After bagging numerous awards, Bong Coo retired and is now running a bowling center and continuing with her apparel business. She has also been an instructor at the University of the Philippines under the Department of Kinetics since 2001.


4. Eric Reyes Buhain

Eric Reyes Buhain

Eric Buhain is a former competitive swimmer. He has several medals under his belt such as the Southeastasian Games and Summer Olympics.

He started swimming not because of his dreams of becoming a champion, but his doctor’s advice to help improve his lungs. He then got into the varsity team of De La Salle Santiago Zobel School and vowed to win a gold medal.

In 1981 at the age of eleven, he was already a member of the Philippine Team. He swam in the 400-meter individual category at the 1985 Southeast Asian Games and was able to bag his first gold. He also participated in the 1998 Summer Olympics.

By 1989, Eric was able to break one of the existing SEA Games swimming records. In 1991 Southeast Asian Games, where the Philippines hosted, he bagged a gold medal. The following year, he was chosen to represent the Philippines in the Summer Olympics.

Despite swimming several gold medals in the 1993 Southeast Asian Games, Eric decided to retire from his career in swimming.

After he retired, in 2001, he was appointed as the chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And in 2022, he then shifted into politics and is now serving as the Representative for Batangas’ 1st district.


5. Rene Herrera

Rene HerreraRene Gamarcha Herrera is a Filipino track and field sports legend. He first started as an amateur boxer when he was 17 years old with a record of 20 fights and 5 loses. He then entered the Milo Marathon and won, giving him a chance to qualify for national competition.

He competed at the 2003 Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam where he won 1st place in the 3000m steeplechase. In 2005 and 2006, he bagged 1st place in Southeast Asian Games and Philippine Olympic Festival in the same category.

In 2009, 2010, and 2011 he bagged first place in Vietnam he bagged first place at the Southeast Asian Games and Malaysian Open at the 3000m steeplechase category.

He represented the Philippines at the HongKong Intercity Athletics Championships where he was able to place second at the 5000m.

In 2012, he joined the 2012 Summer Olympics but fell short as he placed 41st.

Amidst his loss at the Summer Olympics, he then retired and is now a newly appointed coach of the Philippines National Athletics Team.

The sportsmanship of these sports legends are the foundation of Philippine sports. Many aspiring and new generation athletes look up to them with respect for their hard work in paving the way. While their unending enthusiasm, passion, and determination helped the Philippines in creating a dominative edge across the world.

It is important that Filipinos, not just the athletes, are honoring these retired athletes as a sign of respect but this serves as a form of legacy to continue raising the Philippine flag in the world of sports. The stories from individual sports legends serve as an inspiration for the future generation of athletes to put passion, determination, and patriotism above anything else.

The determination of these retired athletes serves as an inspiration for all the younger generations. They serve as role models with their sportsmanship, perseverance, and patriotism. They play a vital role in teaching young athletes that with determination and hardwork you can achieve your goals and succeed not only in sports, but also in real life.

When you remember these retired athletes from bowling, track and field, long jump, and swimming; their legacy lives on. Their journey in their chosen field in sports are filled with lessons that extend far beyond. Research more of their stories and other athletes that helped pave the way for the younger generation in sports.