Weightlifter and Zamboanga native Hidilyn Diaz finally ended the country’s long, long wait for an Olympic gold medal with two records at that.
If you are into sportswriting like me, there is no other subject matter now to talk about, but Hidilyn after her golden performance at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
And she certainly deserves aĺl the recognition, accolades, and financial incentives and I believe for the latter, it will go beyond the guaranteed P35M -- P10M from the Philippine Sports Commission, P10M from the MVP Group, another P10M from the San Miguel Corporation Group, P3M from Rep. Mikee Romero and P2M from the city government of Zamboanga.
Manny Pacquiao, the Senate and Congress, and other companies and individuals, I think they will also shower her with financial rewards.
Expect, too, that a lot of people will try to ride on her success, but never mind. Hidilyn, after close to a century, has made us realize the dream of an Olympic gold, period.
I thought I was past the stage of being envious, but in this case, I envy my editor Rey Mallari and other Filipinos, who witnessed this historic event personally in Tokyo.
Rey uploaded the awarding ceremonies, including him singing the national anthem while the Philippine flag was being raised and Lupang Hinirang played, and am sure it was with tears in his eyes.
Just watching the event, I too, shed tears of joy together with so many others, who shared their feelings on social media.
Others may not know it but Hidilyn, caught up in the pandemic while in Malaysia, had to train in a car port as gyms were among the establishments temporarily closed by the government.
Beatle George Harrison, in a little-known song, put it best,” if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
In Hidilyn’s case, she knew exactly where she was going and stayed on course no matter what, and I am sure she will inspire other Filipino athletes to aspire for the same dream.
Again, her triumph proved what it takes to succeed in sports, be a world-class athlete, in her case a world champion, aside from the athlete’s personal determination and commitment to do what it takes, they also need training and exposure abroad.
Look at the case of gymnast Carlos Yulo, golfer Yuka Saso, and pole vaulter EJ Obiena, who all sacrificed being separated from their families to train and compete abroad.
This entails a lot of money. Without funds for this, do not expect our athletes to do well at the world level. This is why in the past, I have questioned the principle of giving incentives after the fact when it is better to provide athletes the funds for international training.
It is this much needed training that will enable any Filipino athlete to duplicate Hidilyn’s feat, give them this support on a sustained basis and our athletes will deliver.
Another thing that emerged, unsurprisingly at that, is the need to focus on body-weighted sports such as boxing, gymnastics, weightlifting, and taekwondo, just to mention a few. This gives us more chances to succeed rather than spend so much, say in men’s basketball, where even as we grow bigger and taller, other countries will have more taller and bigger players than us.
Hidilyn has certainly shown the playbook, there is no secret about it, we know what we want for Philippine sports and our athletes we know the why, the where, and even the how, but until this knowledge is put in practice, we will not succeed.
Congratulations Hidilyn, you made us proud of being Filipinos, at the same tine that you made us cry, but tears of joy.