Rogelio Onofre and a record that stood nearly half a century
For 45 years Rogelio Onofre held the Men’s 100m National Record from 1962 up until 2007. He was the last Filipino 100m-200m sprinter to be heralded Asia’s fastest man. His career as a sprinter spanned three decades from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.
Rogelio P. Onofre was born on December 12, 1939, in Tarlac City, Tarlac. The lightly built Onofre stood at 5’9 and weighed only 130 lbs.
Onofre began off as a high jumper in 1957 at the Regional PRISAA qualifying for the Asian Games in that event. He attended the 1958 ASIAN Games but failed to feature in the final of the top six.
After a disappointing Asian Games, Onofre switched his focus to the 100m in 1959. Onofre is undefeated over the 100 Meter Dash among the Filipinos but he did concede a defeat to the late Arnulfo Valles at the national open over the 200-meter dash.
1960 Olympic Games
The following year he would join a relay team to the 1960 Rome Olympics with Claro Pellosis, Isaac Gomez, and Remigio Vista the team registered 41.4/41.55a but finished fourth in heat 2 failing to qualify for the next round. This would, however, prepare them well for the Asian Games.
Onofre would record a 10.3 hand time at the National Open on June 6, 1962, at Pasig. This performance made him the favorite for the Asian Games title later that year. Accrediting as 10.57A standing as the national record and not broken until 2007.
1962 Asian Games Rogelio Onofre
At the 1962 Asian Games (26 August) in Jakarta with 4 heats, in the first heat Md. Sarengat of Indonesia set a new Games Record of 10.5, which Onofre and Hideo Iijima of Japan equaled in heat 2 and 3. Sarengat then improving this record to 10.4 in the first semi-final in which Khaliq, the winner in 1954 was eliminated. Onofre tied the Asian Record winning semi-final 2 in 10.4. (This 10.4 time was the adjusted time of 10.57 which stood as the Filipino electronic record until 2007).
In the final Onofre, expecting a recall, was the slowest away and Jegathesan showed ahead after 10 meters but the Filipino brilliantly made a recovery and was a fraction ahead of the field after 50 meters. Sarengat closed strongly in the final stages to become the first Indonesian to win an Asian title and Jegathesan snatched second place in the last few meters.
1. Md Sarengat Indonesia 10.5
2. Maikavsagam Jegathesan Malaya 10.6
3. Rogelio Onofre Philippines 10.7
4. Hideo Iijima Japan 10.7
5. Jolal Gosal Indonesia 10.8
6. Isaac Gomez Philippines 10.8
(Jegathesan according to newspapers clocked at 10.6, but according to reports was much closer to Sarengat than the timers ended up with).
.A relay Gold
Despite missing out on the gold after having it on-site after 50 meters. Onofre set about the task of helping the Philippines defend its 4x100m relay title they had won in 1958. Vista, Gomez, Pellosis, and Onofre as anchor set a new Games record in the heat in 41.1. Indonesia won the second heat in 41.6.
In the final, the Indonesian broke the tape first, but in an odd twist was disqualified for passing out of the zone earlier in the race. Onofre and his countrymen had defended the Asian Relay title. It would be the last time the Philippines would win a gold medal in this event.
At a 1963 meeting of US Servicemen vs Filipino athletes at the Rizal Memorial Stadium Onofre finished third in 10.9, behind Americans Norman Jackson (10.4) and Clarence Riley (10.8).
Onofre would take part in his second Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964 this time qualifying for the individual 100m. In 1964 he finished 5th in heat 8 and failed to qualify for the next round. He also ran 22.1 finishing 7th in heat 5 of the 200m also failing to advance. The Philippines would finish seventh in heat 3 in a time of 41.7 secs..
1966 Asian Games
Onofre was the victim of a lightning strike this year in which a bolt struck his house. And left him critically injured. Onofre ran 10.9 in heat 3 which was won by C. Kunalan of Singapore. As a result of electrocution Onofre was eliminated in the first semi-final at the Asian Games in fifth in 10.8. He had the eighth fastest time but it was only the top four from each semi that went through to the finals.
The Philippines were without a finalist for the first time since the series began in 1913. Onofre, however, would go on and help a relay team of William Mordeno, Remigio Vista and Arnulfo Valles win the bronze medal in the 4x100m Relay. He recorded the best time of 21.7 in 1967 for the 200m.
1968 Olympic Games
1968 Olympic Games in Mexico Onofre appeared in his last Olympic games in 1968 aged 29. He timed a wind-aided 10.58 just .01 seconds off his national record set in 1962. The high altitude in Mexico may have helped a little. But by this stage, however, the fact he was nearly 30 and the world’s best sprinters had dramatically improved. The final being won by Jimmy Hines of the United States in 9.95 who became the first man to break the 10-second barrier. Thus he drew near the twilight of a long career for a sprinter.
Interestingly he also participated in the 110 Hurdles clocking 15.01 finishing 6th in heat 4 and failing to advance.
Onofre forced to withdraw from the 1971 Singapore Open due to recovery from an appendicitis operation. At this stage, he still held the Asian Games joint record at 10.4. Onofre finished fourth at the 1971 Malaysia Open behind the next generation of stars Yeo Kian Chye of Singapore, Tokal Mokalam of the Philippines, and Malaysian Thamboo Krishnan who all registered 10.6, with Onofre running 10.8 for fourth.
Onofre at 80 years of age is still alive and now living in the United States with relatives. His cousin Editha Corrales’s granddaughter is Zion Corrales-Nelson the National 200m Record Holder.
- Ignacio Dee
- A Handbook of Far East & Asian Games, Ian Buchannon ATFS (provided by SEA Statistician Jad Adrian Washif ATFS of Malaysia)
- Strait Times and other newspapers
PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE