Tokyo-chasing Didal eyes respect for skateboarding
MANILA, Philippines — Margielyn Didal’s Olympic dream is not only to win a medal but also respect for the sport of skateboarding.
The 2018 Asian Games gold medalist, just like most skateboarders, experienced prejudices just by playing the sport that they love growing up and that’s something that Didal wants to change.
“Most people, when they see a skateboarder, they say ‘you don’t have a future there. They are just hanging on the street’. We look dirty because we are trying to land a trick and we get dusty. And now we’re expecting to be in the Olympics,” said Didal in an interview with tokyo2020.org.
“Skateboarding is not for fame. [It’s] about the vibe of doing the same passion. We just want respect, not just in skateboarding, but whatever status in life, even the kids in the street or street vendors.”
Didal is currently ranked No. 14 in the world and if she keeps her standing in the top 20 then her inclusion in the Tokyo Games is officially sealed.
“I still can’t imagine representing my country and raising the Philippine flag, especially at the Olympics,” said Didal.
Growing up in Cebu, Didal said she was often chastised for practicing in public as she did her tricks on streets and shopping malls and more often than not drew the ire of law enforcement officers and security guards.
Running away from cops and security, however, was just “part of the thrill.”
Didal admitted that skateboarding wasn’t a fad or just a hobby for her, but a way to help her family make ends meet and also for her personal well-being.
“[Skateboarding] is the best way to escape problems for me,” said Didal. “Sometimes, if you [are] overthinking on a skateboard you can’t think of other stuff, you only need to think of the skateboard yourself and the trick.”
“Skateboarding is fun [but] for me I just want to help my parents. We’re a big family. We are five siblings, and are now getting bigger.”
Didal started off borrowing boards from her friends but little did she know that she’d eventually become the best in her circle.
Successful runs in the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games, wherein she won a total of three gold medals, led Didal to be included in Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2018 and named on Forbes Asia Magazine’s 30 under 30 list the next year.
Didal’s athletic success also made her a beneficiary of the Olympic solidarity scholar program that the International Olympic Committee set up to give talented athletes from less advantaged countries an equal chance of reaching the Games and succeed in the sporting stage.
Though Didal receives a monetary allowance from the program, part of the funds for the scholarship can also help create the first skatepark in the Philippines.
Still, Didal’s earnings from her international stints were what boosted her family’s income. She also has an international sporting brand in New Balance as her sponsor.
As of now, Didal has been practicing at home with Cebu City still under lockdown due to COVID-19 and she asked her father, who’s a carpenter, build her a four-foot tall quarter pipe on the top floor of their house so she can practice.
“I asked my dad to build the quarter pipe if you guys have seen my videos, it’s a four feet tall quarter pipe, so I can just skate back and forth in the small space.”