Paralympic Games
7-18 September

Josephine Medina wins the Philippines’ first medal in Rio

The table tennis player dedicated her bronze to her country and her father, who died 12 years ago. 13 Sep 2016
A look inside a venue where table tennis will be contested. On the court are four tennis tables set up.

The RioCentro - Pavilion 3 will stage table tennis during the Rio 2016 Games.

ⒸGetty Images

During her medal ceremony, Josephine Medina wore a baggy jacket from the 2011 ASEAN Para Games and the black skirt she competed in.

Her fellow medal winners had on their full Rio 2016 Paralympic gear – fitting warm-up jackets with matching pants.

“It’s OK,” Medina said. “It has the Philippine flag.”

“Today I did not win for myself. I won for my country. I won for the Philippines. I come from a third world country so playing a European country is difficult for us.”

The Filipina table tennis player was not expecting to win the bronze in the women’s singles class 8 on Monday (12 September) at the Riocentro – Pavilion 3. But she overcame Germany’s Julian Wolf 3-0 to claim the Philippines’ first medal at Rio 2016 – and only the second ever in the country’s Paralympic history.

There is one person she wished to share the moment with.

“I dedicated it to my father,” Medina said.

“I didn't have the chance to tell my papa that I was playing internationally. It is quite sad, but I know he believed in me. I know he is still near me."

The effects of polio caused Medina’s leg-length difference. Her father was a national player and influenced her to pick up the sport, in which she would compete against able-bodied players. But she was told she could not compete in the national team because of her impairment.

That, nor the expensive costs of keep competing, did not stop her.

“That rejection has become my inspiration and I train hard. I just want to prove that disability is not a hindrance in achieving your goal,” Medina said.

“Since my family had a financial problem, table tennis was my passport to finish my studies,” she said. “I entered as a varsity player [in college] and kept playing at the different competition levels with the able-bodied players.”

Medina made her international debut at the 2003 ASEAN Para Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.

But the next year, her father died.

“[It] was the lowest point of my life,” Medina said. “He was working in Saudi Arabia but died, they said of a heart attack. He coached in the Royal Saudi Air Force.

“You should be going to the airport to meet someone, but I had to go to meet my father's coffin.”

Eight years after her father’s death, she made her Paralympic debut at London 2012 but lost in the bronze medal match.

On Monday against Wolf – whom she last met in the 2011 French Open, where she lost – Medina was playing back, patiently returning the ball with a few quick, surprise shots, while her opponent struggled to keep the ball on the table.

Every once in a while, when Medina took a point, she would make the sign of the cross across her chest and point to the sky.

“I have been praying to God that one day the Philippines would win a medal,” she said. “Now the Philippines will not return home without a medal.”