Hidilyn Diaz confident this is the year for Team PH

Published July 23, 2021, 7:32 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, left, takes a selfie with world gymnastics champion Caloy Yulo at the Athletes Village in the Tokyo Olympics in Japan. (Hidilyn Diaz Instagram)

Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz has been to three Olympics.

She won a silver medal back in 2016 that ended a long 20-year drought for a podium finish for the Philippines when Rio de Janeiro staged the Summer Games in Brazil.

With her experience playing in the biggest stage in sports competition, Diaz understands where the 19-man contingent of the national team stands against the best athletes in the world in this edition of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Yes. This is the year for us,” said Diaz in the fourth and final episode of a documentary entitled “Let’s Go HD!” shown Thursday, July 22 on the Facebook page of Kick-Start Coffee Brewed Awakening.

Of the 19 athletes of Team Philippines, Diaz is the only one with experience competing in the Olympics. The 18 others are all first timers, but several of them are considered the best in their sport.

Caloy Yulo is a world champion in gymnastics. The same with Nesthy Petecio in women’s boxing. Golfer Yuka Saso is the reigning US Women’s Open title-holder and is expected to vie for the gold medal in this Olympics.

The other members of the national team are EJ Obienna of pole vault, Irish Magno, Eumir Marcial and Carlo Paalam of boxing, Chris Nievarez of rowing, Kurt Barbosa of taekwondo, Margielyn Didal of skateboarding, Jayson Valdez of shooting, golf’s Juvic Pagunsan and Bianca Pagdanganan, Kiyomi Watanabe of judo, Kristina Knott of athletics, swimming’s Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule, and Elreen Ann Ando of weightlifting.

Like the previous months that Diaz prepared for the Summer Games, she said that these 18 athletes have also done their best to proudly represent the Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics, which formally starts Friday, July23.

“Alam ko yung mga pinaghirapan nila sa training,” said Diaz, who spent more than a year of training in Malaysia.

“Ito na yung pikakahi-hintay ko, pinakahi-hintay naming mga Filipino athletes. Siempre sobrang excited na ako, kinakabahan, sobrang kinanabahan ako. Pero kino-convert ko na siya na sinasabi ko na-excited na ako ipakita ang galing nating mga Pilipino.”

Diaz said that she is thinking of calling it quits, but that decision would come after the Tokyo Olympics.

“Sakin alam kong kaya ko pa. Pero ngayon ang target ko hanggang Asian Games. Then after the Asian Games tignan ko ulit, reflect, then kung kaya… tuluy-tuoy, kung hindi… baka yun na,” she said.

“Ang haba-haba ng serbisyo ko sa weightlifting, baka time na. Pero hindi ko pa alam… masasabi ko lang nakikita ko potential ko, malakas ako, sayang naman kung mag-stop ako. Habang andito yung momentum tuluy-tuloy lang. Habang nandito pa.”

If she decides to retire after the Asian Games next year in China, the 30-year-old Diaz said she wants fellow Filipinos to remember her as a national team athlete that gave everything to give honor to the country.

“Maalala ng bansa mga pinagdaanan ko, preparation, team behind me… may isang Hidilyn Diaz na lumalaban, na Pilipina galing sa Zamboanga City – napatunayan niya na kahit galing sa hirap kaya mong manalo sa Olympics,” Diaz said.

Diaz will see action in the 55-kilogram category of women’s weightlifting next week.