Before the Olmypic gold: How Hidilyn Diaz beat anxiety, mental struggle while training
MANILA, Philippines — Before her historic lift for gold, weightlifting champ Hidilyn Diaz suffered from anxiety while stuck in Malaysia for over a year preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.
Diaz disclosed how the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic caused mental issues to athletes like her and how her team’s support helped her get through it all.
“’Pag lockdown, nag-close lahat. Nung time na ‘yun, nagkaroon ako ng anxiety…kasi syempre as an athlete, ‘yung first concern ko, saan kami magte-training? Kung wala kaming barbell dito, paano na?” Diaz told ANC.
(When lockdown came, everything closed down. At that time, I suffered from anxiety because, of course, as an athlete, my first concern was where will we train? If we don’t have a barbell here, how can we train?)
“Tapos, saan kami magse-stay. Tapos wala kaming kilala dito,” she added.
(And then I also thought about where we could stay. We don’t know anyone here.)
After months of training, she said she cried when she learned that the Tokyo Olympics, which was supposed to be held in 2020, was postponed.
“Kasi buong mundo nag-lockdown so lahat (ng athletes) parang nagkaroon ng mental breakdown nung time na ‘yun. Alam niyo naman ang atleta, seven to nine session a week ‘yan nagte-training. Tapos biglang walang training…Tapos biglang sinabi na walang Olympics,” Diaz said.
(The whole world was on lockdown, so all athletes kind of had mental breakdowns at that time. You know athletes had to train for seven to nine sessions a week and then it will all come to a halt, and then they said the Olympics will no longer be held.)
“Sa totoo lang, nung sinabi na ‘yung Olympics ma-postpone, siyempre umiiyak talaga ako…Nung time na ‘yun, siyempre namroblema ako, 15 months, preparation ulit? Akala ko matatapos na. Kaya ko pa ba?” she added.
(Honestly, when they said the Olympics will be postponed, I cried…At that time, of course, I was worrying because after 15 months, I will have to do another round of preparations? I thought this will all be over soon. Can I still hold on?)
According to Diaz, her team assured her of their support, which, she said, meant a lot to her and was the reason she was able to survive what she went through in Malaysia.
“Pinakinggan nila ako at sinabi nila sa ‘kin na ‘We will stay, we will support you, we will be here.’ Malaking bagay ‘yun sakin kasi…’yun ‘yung down time moment ko,” she said.
(They listened to me and told me ‘We will stay, we will support you, we will be here.’ It means a lot to me because I was really down at that moment.)
“Kung wala sila baka hindi ko ma-survive ‘yung doon,” she added.
(Without them, I never would have survived it there.)
Diaz also expressed gratitude for the presence of her team’s sports psychologist, Dr. Karen Trinidad.
“Si Doc Karen, sabi niya ‘You have to get it up, kailangan i-handle mo ito day by day…So ginawa ko day by day, nagiging grateful ako. Day by day, naging productive ako,” she added.
(Doc Karen told me ‘You have to get it up, you need to handle this day by day. So what I did was day by day, I was grateful. Day by day, I tried to be productive.)
To prevent herself from overthinking, Diaz said she would find things to distract her, like cooking and even attending online classes.
“After training, nag-aaral ako para wala akong time para mag-drama sa gabi,” she added.
(After training, I will study so that I will not have time to be emotional at night.)
Following her experience in Malaysia, she underscored the need to provide not only financial support for athletes but also support to their mental well-being.
“Ang atleta, tao rin…sana maintindihan nila na hindi lang ‘to all about medal, it’s also about preparation and support…’Yung mental health naman ng isang atleta, yes, kailangan namin ng mental preparation, mental training at mental wellness,” she added.
(Athletes are also human beings…I hope they will understand that it’s not all about the medal, it’s also about preparation and support. The mental health of an athlete, yes, we need mental preparation, mental training, and mental wellness.)
According to Diaz, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) provided support for her and her team in Malaysia for 55 days.
She said her coaches told her it would be ideal to train there so that she can focus.
But when they had to extend their stay due to pandemic restrictions, Diaz became hesitant to request more financial backing from the government, saying such funds could instead be used for the pandemic response in the Philippines.
“Hindi ako nakapag-request that time…siyempre nahihiya ako kasi nga nasa pandemiya tayo, mas kailangan natin ngayon na gamitin ‘yung funding for the Filipino, para sa atin dito (sa Pilipinas),” she explained.
(I wasn’t able to request that time…I was hesitant because we are in the middle of a pandemic, Filipinos need that funding more.)
“So hindi na ako nag-request so, good thing lang talaga na nandoon ang MVPSF na tumulong,” she added, referring to the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation.
(So I no longer requested assistance, good thing that MVPSF was there to help.)
Diaz arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday from Tokyo, Japan. She is currently in a hotel undergoing mandatory quarantine.
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