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Hidilyn Diaz: Athletes need decent training center

05:35 AM September 12, 2018

ZAMBOANGA HERO Hidilyn Diaz displays her Asian Games gold medal during her homecoming in Zamboanga City with parents Eduardo and Emelita.—JULIE ALIPALA

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Weightlifting sensation Hidilyn Diaz basked in the adulation of the city she calls home but her thoughts were drifting hundreds of kilometers away — at a decaying sports facility in Manila.

“Let’s face it: I admit that we athletes are giving our all, but look at our Rizal Sports Complex,” she said in a brief speech as the city feted her for bringing home gold from the Asian Games.

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“There’s been no change,” said Diaz, also a silver medalist in the Olympics.

“We need changes, improvements,” she added.

She said the area surrounding the sports complex had undergone drastic changes but the Rizal Sports Complex never improved.

So much change

“Around the sports complex, condominiums have risen,” she said.

“There’s so much change, except at the Rizal Sports Complex,” she added.

She said that while she was not blaming the government for the neglect of what used to be the country’s premiere sports facility, “there’s really a need to address this.”

“It’s just my appeal. I don’t want to judge,” Diaz added.

Diaz said Filipino athletes were preparing this early for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a good training facility would be a big help.

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She said she, too, was now preparing for the next Olympics.

Other heroes

Diaz was in the city with fellow Zamboangueño athletes who brought home Asian Games medals — boxing bronze medalist Eumir Marcial and bronze Penkat Silat medalist Jefferson Loon.

The city government prepared a hero’s welcome for the three and gave them financial rewards — P300,000 for Diaz and P100,000 each for Marcial and Loon.

In a brief speech, Loon became emotional when he recounted how he struggled to stay in Penkat Silat, a sport which he said only few appreciated.

“I will do my best to make it popular,” he said, trying to hold back tears.

“I am promoting this to inspire more youth to join this sport,” he added.

“Sorry,” he said, apparently apologizing for crying.

‘Love your sport’

Marcial said he was grateful to the people of Zamboanga for their support.

He said one lesson he learned was to “love your sport and this will lead you to the life you dreamed of.”

“Sports will bring honor and name to our city and you, too, will bring honor and fame,” Marcial said.

Diaz, Marcial and Loon said they were overwhelmed by the warm welcome that the people of the city gave them, especially the youth who endured the heat of the sun while waiting for the athletes.

Diaz said she was happy to see more youth looking up to her and the other athletes for inspiration.

“I want to show and share to them this sport hoping that, someday, they will become sports heroes, too,” Diaz said. —Julie Alipala

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TAGS: Eumir Marcial, Hidilyn Diaz, Jefferson Loon, Rizal Sports Complex, training center for athletes
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