Hidilyn shoots not only for gold but also for permanent place in PH sports history
Already on her fourth Olympics, Hidilyn Diaz feels she has made her mark in Philippine sporting history.
“I think the one thing that I can leave behind … to the young is that with proper support, we Filipinos can compete—that we can win the Olympics,” she said just before flying to Tokyo from her training base in Malaysia.
On Monday, she gets a chance to cement that legacy when she competes in the 55-kilogram division of the women’s weightlifting event in the Tokyo Olympics.
Margielyn Didal, meanwhile, is making her first Olympic appearance—her sport, skateboarding, is making its Summer Games debut this year.
Despite being the reigning Asian champion, she is not that highly rated in the competition, as she faces a phalanx of talented rivals from Brazil and host Japan.
And that explains her chill approach to her quest for a medal at Ariake Urban Sports Park also on Monday—even taking time out to joke about the heat athletes have been talking about the past few days.
“This is like a dream course, but with this weather, you kind of wish you were at the beach or in the water,” she said via flash quotes provided by Olympic organizers.
“Skateboarding’s not about how good or bad you’re skating, as long as you’re enjoying it,” she also said. “For this, the Olympics, the first one that will be in the history books, like there’s a lot of good competitors, but I’m just going to try to enjoy it and cherish every moment of this contest.”
Diaz, meanwhile, has a lot riding on her shoulders. When you’re the most decorated female Olympian in a country that has yet to taste gold, there will be a lot of pressure on her to deliver—compounded by the fact that a world record holder stands in her way and that the Games will be played under the shadow of a virus that has necessitated frequent testing.
“There are times when the anxiety is too high; there are times when I cannot sleep because of the pressure,” Diaz said. And that’s before world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, the main bearer of gold medal expectations, tumbled out of his pet event late Saturday night.
“And then you get tested every day,” added Diaz. “I’m really just thankful I have my team with me to help ease my anxieties.”
Her team consists of a strength and conditioning coach, a nutritionist and a sports psychologist. They have whipped her into a mean and balanced lifting machine. But none of them will be there to help her carry the weight of a country’s hopes on the stage at Tokyo International Forum, where she will be dealing with heavily favored Chinese record holder Liao Qiuyun.
But Diaz remains unfazed. She vows to give it her all for the country.
And, perhaps, for a legacy that she forged with a silver medal, one that will endure even longer with a gold.