First Published July 10, 2013
Proof Edited by Dr. Vic Salas 2021
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I want to share another great tale of one of our countries legendary female sprinters with the athletic community. Contributed by various sources, including Mr. Ignacio Dee.
Inocencia Solis – First Great Filipina Sprint Champion
The Philippines has a strong history of Women Sprint Champions at Asian Level. The last one was Lydia De Vega. Before, she was Amelita Alanes and preceded by Mona Sulaiman. But before all of these names, the legacy started with a 5’2 farmer’s daughter from Iloilo, perhaps a forgotten name with time.
For the whole decade of the 1950s, Solis was the Philippines’ primary dominant sprinter before Mona Sulaiman’s emergence in 1960. Hence Solis would continue to be competitive at the National level until 1965.
Born of Innocent’s Day (Dec 28) in 1932, to farmer parents Victorio Solis and former Leonarda Silomenio in the sleepy village of Bolalacao in the central Iloilo town of New Lucena. Her running days started at the New Lucena Elementary School, where she shone in several athletic competitions. Also, she won top honors as a student at Santa Barbara High School.
In 1950 she won three gold medals at the National Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association Meet (NISSA). These meets were the forerunner to the Palarong Pambansa, which started in 1975.
While at this meet, she established National Records in the 100,200 and Long Jump. In 1953, she was the PRISAA (Pampanga) and National Champion.
She continually held and improved on the National Record in the 100m until 1962, when Mona Sulaiman broke it. After that, she held the 200m record until 1960 and the Long Jump for seven years, according to Rex Salvilla, chair of the Western Visayas Historical Foundation.
Seeing her potentials, the Cebu Institute of Technology offered her a full scholarship. Fructosa Soriano coached her. She went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She worked as a school teacher and at the same time as an athletic coach in Cebu for some time until the city government of Caloocan recruited her in the early 1960s.
In 1954 at the 2nd Asian Games in Manila, Solis won the bronze medal in 200 meters in 26.5s (26.2 national records in heats), she would team up with Rogelia Ferrer, Manolito Cinco, and Roberta Anore to win another bronze in the women’s 4×100 (50.4s).
Asian Games Champion
In 1958 Inocencia Solis became a household name when she won the Asian Games 100m gold medal in 12.5s in front of two Japanese runners in Tokyo and was named athlete of the year. In doing so, Solis broke the long-standing national record of 12.6s set in 1940 by Juana Espiritu of Sorsogon.
She would team up with Ferrer, Irene Penuela, and Francisca Sanopol to take the silver medal, this time in the 4×100 (49.0s).
Inocencia Solis, by 1962 she would win another gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta, this time in the 4x100m (48.6s) teaming with Sulaiman, Aida Molinos Sanopol.
It took the government 40 years to again bestow another honor upon her — the Distinguished Filipino Woman Achiever in Sports award given by then-President Ramos during the Philippine Centennial Celebration.
Inocencia Solis died of severe diabetes at 69 at the Iloilo Mission Hospital on November 4, 2001. Her passing was tragic because the honors she gave to the country were never reciprocated in government support. She died poor. She was unmarried, so she had no direct descendants.
She had relatives in Santa Barbara who relocated to Bacolod City. Ellah Sirilan, a UAAP 400 Hurdler, is related to her. New Lucena City was part of Santa Barbara until 1921. It became a Town in 1947 and separated. It has 22,000 people today. But it was a small farming village in the 1930s.
List of Performances by Inocencia Solis
- 1950 National School Champion 100,200, Long Jump (National Records)
- 1952 BPISAA
- 100m 13.2
- 200m 28.0
- 1953 BPISAA and National Champion 13.2/27.0
- 1954 National Championships
- Long Jump 17 /1 1/8 Inches
- 200m 26.7 (National Record) 1st
- 4×100 National Record 51.2
- 100m 2nd Womens 13.2
- 1954 Asian Games (Bronze) 26.5 200m 26.2s (heats) (National Record) Asian Games (Bronze) 4x100m (50.4s)
- 1955 National Championships
- 100m (heats) – 2nd 12.9 (behind Japan)
- 100m (final) – 13.1 (3rd behind Two Japanese)
- 200m (final) – 26.5 (2nd behind Japan)
- 1957 National Championships
- 100m 12.4
- 200m 27.0
- 1958 Asian Games (Gold)
- 100m 12.5s Asian Games (Silver)
- 4x100m (49.0s)
- 1958 PSA Sports Athlete of the Year
- 1959 25.3s (Asian Record)
- 1960 PRISAA
- 100M 12.6
- 200m 26.4
- 1960 National Open
- 12.8 (2nd)
- 26.5 (2nd)
- 1961 Malacca International Athletic Meet
- 100m – 2nd 12.5s
- 200m 2nd
- 1962 Asian Games (Gold) 4x100m (48.6s)
- 100m – 12.4s
- 200m – 26.8s
Inocencia Solis’ win in the 1958 Asian Games marked a milestone for Women’s Sport in the Philippines. Women had started competing in the Philippines’ sprint dashes in 1934 but were not included in the Far East Asian Games, the previous incarnation of the Asian Games.
That all changed in 1958 when Solis crowned herself Asian Games champion in 100m and 200m. Nobody would have thought it would have started a legacy of excellence, which led to three other Filipina women ruling the Asian Level.
- The Filipino Athlete April 1954, P8
- The Filipino Athlete June 1955
- The Filipino Athlete May 1957
- The Filipino Athlete May 1960
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Andrew was elected Vice President of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians in 2020 after being a member for 7 years.
He has worked as a PSC Consultant and Research Assistant from 2013-2015, Consultant, and Sprint Coach at Zamboanga Sports Academy from 2015-2017.
Current editor and chief of Pinoyathletics.info, and has recently done consultancy work for Ayala Corp evaluating the Track and Field Program.
Coaches Sprints, Middle and Jump events he is working towards his Level 3 Athletics Australia Coaching Certification in Sprints and Hurdles.
He can be contacted on [email protected]
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