Sports

Hidilyn Diaz On Possibility of Competing For Another Country: 'Hindi Ko Kaya'

The weightlifter says she understands the sides of both the athletes and the sports agencies.
IMAGE JEROME ASCAÑO
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The Philippines has a few athletes that offer the best chances of finally snagging the long-awaited Olympic gold medal at the upcoming Tokyo Games. Hidilyn Diaz is one of them. The 30-year-old weightlifter has been representing the country in international competitions since she was in her teens. 

During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Diaz took home the silver medal in the women’s 53-kilogram weight division. It was the first medal for the country in 20 years. She’s the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal.

Diaz has gone on to compete and win in several other international meets, including a gold at the Asian Games in 2018, bronze medals at the World Championships and the Southeast Asian Games in 2019, and a gold at the Roma World Cup in 2020. She has become a modern-day sports hero, and all eyes are on her in Tokyo in May.

Given the high-profile decision of chess player Wesley So to move to the US, become an American citizen, and represent that country in competitions, many are curious what Diaz would do if she was offered the chance to compete under the flag of another country in exchange for citizenship for herself and her family. There’s also the issue of government support (or supposed lack thereof) plaguing Philippine sports, which some athletes have been vocal about. Boxers Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial both took to social media to air their grievances against the government sports agencies.

Diaz has a quick and ready answer.

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“No. Masyado akong maka-Pilipino. Hindi kaya ng konsensya ko na magdala ng ibang flag maliban sa Pilipinas. Basta hindi (I’m way too pro-Filipino. I don’t think my conscience will be able to take carrying the flag of another country other than the Philippines),” she replied when asked during a virtual interview session with editors of the titles under Summit Media.

Hindi ko kayang gawin ‘yun sa Pilipinas. Hindi ko kayang gawin sa pamilya ko kahit na it will give me a better life,” she added.

In the current controversy surrounding Olympics-bound athletes voicing their disappointment at Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the Diaz chose to plead for understanding both for athletes and government sports agencies.

Naiintindihan ko ang PSC. Siyempre government, and ‘yung funding kasi na galing sa PSC is galing sa PAGCOR. Alam ko hirap na hirap din sila (I understand the PSC. It’s a government agency, and the funding comes from PAGCOR. I know it’s very hard for them, too),” she said.

Naiintindihan ko rin ang side ng atleta. ‘Yung mga atletang mag-post sa social media, alam kong may mga pangangailangan sila. ‘Yung pressure sa kanila, sobrang taas. Alam ko ‘yun kasi ganun din ako. Marami lang silang iniisip na problema sa pamilya (I also understand the side of the athletes. When the athletes post on social media, I know that they also have needs. The pressure on them is so great. I know that because I’m one of them. They have a lot of problems on their mind, especially with their families)," she added.

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National athletes’ monthly pay was cut last year due to funding issues related to the health crisis, although the PSC has said that it would restore the allowances to pre-pandemic levels after funding was approved under the Bayanihan Act-2. The PSC also said the delay in the release of allowances, which was the main issue raised by Magno, was caused by      an annual review on national team members qualified to receive allowances.

Still, despite these issues Diaz said she has no intention of turning her back on the Philippines.

Hindi ako susuko para sa Pilipino. Magbabago ang perspective sa atleta. Kailangan lang na may taong lumalaban. Nandoon ako. ‘Yun siguro ang purpose ko kaya ako nandito (I won’t ever give up for the Filipino. Athletes’ perceptions will change. We just need someone to fight for them. That’s perhaps my purpose, and the reason why I’m here),” she said.

Kahit sabihin na mag-coach ako sa ibang bansa tapos tuturuan ko ‘yung ibang ateleta at mag-serve ako sa ibang bansa para gumawa ng champion sa kanila, hindi ko kayang gawin. Although hindi ko pa nakikita ‘yun o na-consider ‘yung mag-coach sa ibang bansa, pero pagiging atleta ng ibang bansa, hindi ko kayang gawin (Even if I was offered to coach the athletes of other countries and make champions out of them, I don’t think I can do that. I haven’t considered that, but as for being an athlete for another country, no, I don’t think I can ever do that),” she added.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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