Hidilyn’s date with historyBy Percy D. Della
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SACRAMENTO, California—There’s no need for the Jim Croce song to inspire Hidilyn Diaz.
The 21-year-old Zamboangeña, who will become the first female athlete ever to carry the Filipino flag at the opening ceremony of a Summer Olympic Games, would be unable to store her date with history in a bottle.
But as the Croce ditty goes, Hidilyn would definitely cherish that breathtaking instant till eternity passes away.
The youthful weightlifter is competing in her second Olympics in London 2012. She ranked ninth in the women’s 58-kilogram category as a 17-year-old lifter in the Beijing Games four years ago.
Diaz will go into the books as the only woman competitor to bear the nation’s colors since the Philippines started competing in the Summer Olympics in 1924 and since 1976 when Filipino female athletes started qualifying for the Games.
As the host’s coming out party, the glitzy opening ceremony has retained its emotion, spectacle and splendor all through the Olympic years.
The parade of nations is as stirring as the Olympic events themselves, and as heart-rending as the time when a country’s flag is sent fluttering in the breeze during the medal presentation at the podium of victory.
Ironically, the extravagantly produced Olympic curtain-raiser is probably the first and last time Filipino athletes, overshadowed by a sea of superstars, will be visible to the naked eye during the massive telecast of the Britain’s version of “the greatest show on earth.”
Aside from Diaz, at least 30 women athletes (as of last count) will march as flag bearers when the athletes from 205 competing nations assemble at the London Olympic Stadium under the watchful eyes of a worldwide audience of one billion people.
Among the most notable are Maria Sharapova, the world’s number one in women’s tennis for the Russian Federation and swimming multimedalist Kirsty Coventry for Zimbabwe.
The growing number of female flag bearers is not the only development that has organizers touting the 2012 Olympics as a landmark for women.
For the first time, Team USA will send more female athletes (269) than male (261) to the Olympics.
In Team USA’s roster of women is Filipino-American swimmer Natalie Coughlin, who is seeking her 12th Olympic medal. A dozen medals would tie her with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated female Olympian ever to wear the red, white and blue. (More on Coughlin in a succeeding column).
The London Summer Games 2012 also will be the first Olympics in which women will compete in all the same events as men, including women’s boxing—a new event added this year—and every participating country will send at least one female athlete.
That includes the countries of Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia which have decided to break their taboos and will send women competitors to the Olympics for the first time ever.
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The most unique among Olympians this year is 29-year-old Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi of Malaysia. She goes to London to join an exclusive club of women who have competed in the Olympics while pregnant.
Nur Suryani, who will be eight months heavy with child when she competes, told the New York Times she is not worried about the pressure that comes with being the first female to represent her country in shooting.
Rather, she “is worried about whether the girl inside her will kick just as she pulls the trigger.”
More from this Column:
- Sportsmen in politics
- NSAs catch election fever
- ‘My bottom dollar for a horse’
- PH a world golf stop amid leadership turmoil
- Go, Popoy Juico and the Patafa presidency