By NIKOLE JAVIER
Hidilyn Diaz, once dreaming of an award from the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA), had her supporters and naysayers to thank for after receiving her fourth Athlete of the Year plum Monday night, March 6.
The weightlifting star is looking to bring home the gold medal for the second time when she competes in the 2024 Paris Games.
“Dati pinapangarap ko lang to, ngayon fourth time na. Parang kailangan lang nagsimula akong maging atleta na nangangarap lang makatanggap ng isang PSA award. Kahit citation lang, gusto kong mag-attend dito. Pero ngayon pang apat na,” said Diaz during PSA’s Annual Awards Night at the Diamond Hotel on Monday, March 6.
“Sa susunod na taon Olympics ulit at gagawin ko ang lahat para makuha ulit ang gintong medalya sa Paris Olympics. At sana makabalik dito sa susunod na taon para sa ikalimang Athlete of the Year award. Manifesting for the Philippines.”
Diaz won the award in 2016 for the first time following her strong performance in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics that led to a silver medal finish.
The reigning Olympic champion was cut above the rest in the IWF World Weightlifting Championships in Bogota, Colombia in December following a three-gold medal sweep in the 55kg division.
The 32-year-old is only the fourth athlete who has won the award four times, with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and bowling icon Paeng Nepomuceno having five each to their name.
With a decorated weightlifting resume, Diaz is no safe from doubters, whom she thanked in her speech for adding challenge to her already grueling international competitions.
“Pero nagpapasalamat din ako sa mga nagda-doubt sa akin, sa mga naysayers kasi na cha-challenge rin ako. Pero ang mga totoong tao na nakapaligid sa akin ang nakakaalam kung gaano kahirap ang pinahdaanan ko sa training,” said Diaz.
In nearly 100 list of awardees, the Olympic gold medalist was along athletics legends in the late Lydia de Vega, who received the PSA Hall of Fame and Elma Muros-Posadas who earned the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other major awardees included pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlo Yulo, boxer Carlos Paalam, esports team Blacklist International, including President’s awardee tennis star Alex Eala.