Diaz believes more Filipino athletes can win Olympic gold

PSA Athlete of the Year Hidilyn Diaz (Manny Llanes)

Dreaming big and working hard had been the common denominators of athletes and officials who took the spotlight in Monday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards Night at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.

And for Hidilyn Diaz, who was awarded as the Athlete of the Year after giving the country its first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, these two important values would lead to more Olympic gold medals from fellow Filipino athletes.

“Walang imposible at kaya nating mga Pilipino na manalo ng ginto,” said Diaz in her acceptance speech.

“Sinimulang kong mangarap hanggang sa ginawan ko ng paraan para makuha ang misyon kong makakuha ng gold medal sa Olympics.”

Diaz recalled she dreamed of going to the PSA Awards Night a long time ago after seeing veteran long jumper Marestella Torres and other fellow athletes. Little did she know that she would be attending and accepting her third Athlete of the Year plum.

“Sabi nila dati, ang taas kong mangarap. Bakit hindi? Isa kaya sa mga libre at pinakamadaling gawin ay ang mangarap,” she said.

But one must also be willing to go through hardships to achieve their dreams, according to Diaz, recalling the many family celebrations she missed in lieu of training.

“Noong pandemya, may mga pagkakataong nawalan tayo ng pag-asa. Pero andito tayo ngayon, nagkakulay ang gabi natin. Sine-celebrate ang pagkapanalo natin ng gold medal sa Olympics,” she said.

Basketball legend Mon Fernandez also shared similar values as he recounted his meaningful basketball career with the PBA.

“This award you have bestowed upon me serves as a testament of my unwavering commitment to the ideals of sportsmanship and true Filipino ideals via success through hard work and self improvement,” said Fernandez, who won three Most Valuable Player awards during his post-Toyota days.

Fernandez also clinched 11 titles with Tanduay and San Miguel, including a Grand Slam in 1989 before retiring as the league's all-time leader in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, free throws made, and career minutes played.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez, who were awarded Executive of the Year and Excellence in Leadership plums Co-architects in the nation’s most successful campaign in last year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, downplayed their recognition and dedicated it to the Filipino athletes.

“Together we were a part of Philippine sports history. I share this award with all of you. For I cannot claim this one (award) alone. This award is not mine,” said Ramirez after receiving the PSA’s Leadership in Excellence Award in his speech while sharing the stage with commissioners Ramon Fernandez, Celia Kiram, Charles Maxey and Eng. Arnold Agustin.

His sentiments were shared by Tolentino, who was bestowed the PSA’s Executive of the Year Award, saying: “This is not for me. This is for the 19 Tokyo Olympians. Para sa kanila ang award na ito, led by our gold medalist Hidylin Diaz. Para sa kanila ito at hindi para sa kin.

“Ito ay para sa mga atleta coaches and officials. Nag-sisimula pa lang po tayo. Mahaba pa po ang ating tatahakin. We will move on. Maraming, maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.”

The gala affair is presented by PSC, POC and Cignal, and backed by MILO (official choco milk), 1Pacman, Philippine Basketball Association, Philracom, Rain or Shine, ICTSI, Chooks To Go, MVP Sports Foundation, and Smart.