Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz on Thursday said she respected transwomen competing in the sport, saying they should be given the chance to participate in the Olympics as long as they meet qualifications.
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics, did not deserve all the bashing she got for pursuing what she loved, Diaz said.
"I have to respect the athlete as well. Kung ano man yung katangian niya and kung ano man siya," Diaz told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
"She doesn't deserve yung grabe yung bash sa kanya. Kasi ginagawa niya lang naman yon kasi mahal niya yung sport niya."
New Zealander Laurel Hubbard was the first transgender athlete to compete in the history of the Olympics.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee said the 43-year-old athlete—who was born male but transitioned to female in her 30s—met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes and was slated to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
"Siguro yung iba kini-criticize siya, yung nakikipag-laro siya sa Olympics. Pero may criteria din kasi para makapag-laro siya," Diaz said.
Hubbard has met criticism for competing in the women's category due to unfair advantage, but she has also provoked debate on inclusion and trans rights, with advocates claiming her qualification for the Olympics was a step in the right direction.
Diaz, a woman competing in a traditionally male sport, won the Philippines' first Olympic gold medal after lifting a record-breaking 127 kilograms in the clean and jerk. It took her 19 years of training and competition to get the gold, and while her muscles were proof of her strength, it also became the source of insecurity and hate.
Still, she persisted due to her love for the sport and to inspire the next generation of female weightlifters.
"So kung nakapag-qualify siya dahil naglaro siya, na-meet niya yung criteria, siguro give her the chance to compete," she said.
"Hindi ko alam kung anong ranking niya but give her the chance to compete. As long as pinagtrabahuhan niya yon, at sumunod siya sa kung ano man yung rules and laws na binigay ng IOC (International Olympic Committee)," she added.
"Kasi lahat naman tayo may karapatan din. Kahit ano mang kasarian niya. Ang gusto ko lang sabihin, i-respeto natin siya kasi syempre tao din siya at nasasaktan din siya," Diaz said.