Weighlifter Hidilyn Diaz, poised to give the Philippines its first Olympic gold medal, said Friday she could never represent another country, as she urged authorities to "listen to the needs" of athletes who continue to train despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.
The 30-year-old said staying with Team Philippines to give hope to fellow athletes is a a "responsibility." Diaz replied to a question on whether she would consider carrying another country's flag, where she could get stronger training support.
"Masyado akong loyal kaya nandito pa rin ako lumalaban kasi naniniwala akong may pag-asa pa. Kahit sabihin na it would give me a better life. Hindi ako susuko na magbabago ang perspektib sa atleta, kailangan lang may lumaban," she told Summit Media journalists.
Diaz won the silver medal for weightlifting in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Should her campaign for Tokyo Olympics 2020 succeed, the Philippines' first gold medal will be from a woman in a male-dominated sport.
Like her fellow Filipino Olympic qualifiers, Diaz continues to train even as the Tokyo games was pushed back to this year and even as world travel restrictions change on a daily basis. She is currently in Malaysia.
Last week, Diaz's fellow Olympic qualifier took to social media her concerns on allowances delay, saying her family worries have been affecting her training.
“Ang hirap magfocus para sa paghahanda ko sa Olympics kung alam mong ‘yung pamilya mo sa probinsya halos walang makain,” boxer Irish Magno wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. Her teammate, Eumir Marcial, rallied behind her Thursday alleging how Magno was forced to delete her earlier statement.
"Nakaka-low morale minsan dahil kame ginagawa namin lahat para makuha ang gintong medalya pero kulang ang suporta na natatanggap namin," he said.
Diaz said the Philippine Sports Commission should understand the immense pressure athletes are under just to win medals for the country, which are compounded by training worries.
"Naintindihan ko rin yung side ng atlenta. Kasi itong mga atlenta na nagpost sa social media, alam kong may pangangailangan din sila. Yung pressure sa kanila sobrang taas. Alam ko yun kasi ganon din ako. Yung pressure sobrang taas at siguro marami lang silang iniisip na problema din sa pamilya," Diaz said.
"Kung dagdagan mo pa yung pressure tapos problema mo sa pamilya syempre parang iniisip nila 'paano na yung performance namin sa Olympics. So naiintindihan ko sila, naiitindihan ko rin yung PSC," she said, noting the sports body is also dealing with problems of its own.
"Siguro as a sports leader, sana makinig sila sa pangangailangan din ng atleta at yung atleta sana makita din nila yung side ng agency," she added.
Diaz hails from Zamboanga City. The fifth of six children to her father, a tricycle driver (before that a fisherman) and her mother a housewife.
When she rose all the way to becoming the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal of any color in Brazil five years ago, she said it became more of a responsibility for her, more than winning medals.
"After ko manalo sa Olympics, akala ko tapos na eh. Na nanalo na ako. Pero there is that responsibility na public figure na ako. Tinitignan ako ng mga kabataan kailangan good example ako sa kanila," she said.
According to Diaz, despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, still, they shouldn't give up.
"Alam ko mahirap, mahirap mag focus.. But we should not give up on our dream. Lalo na for the Olympics and Sea Games, kayang-kaya natin 'to."