Weightlifting champ Hidilyn Diaz was stuck in Malaysia for over a year due to pandemic health restrictions where she was anxious of how she could continue training for the Tokyo Olympics.
Diaz shared new details about her preparation for the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal in a recent interview on ANC. “Noong lockdown, nag-close lahat. Noong time na yun nagkaroon ako ng anxiety, kasi as an athlete yung first concern ko kung saan kami magte-training kung wala kaming barbell dito, paano na?” Diaz said.
The Philippine Sports Commission financed their training in Malaysia for 55 days, she said, since she was also set to compete the Asian Championship afterward.
Due to the lockdowns, however, Diaz and other competing athletes’ stay in Malaysia had been extended for more than a year.
“Pinipilit naming mag-training sa condo, tumatakbo kami sa parking lot,” she said, citing their struggle finding a way to train while in lockdown.
After months of training with makeshift implements, Diaz cried upon learning that the Olympics had to be postponed for 15 months.
“Umiiyak talaga ako, tapos yung coaches ko naaawa,” Diaz said. “Pero good thing na hindi nila ako iniwan, malaking bagay yun saakin, kasi kung wala sila baka hindi ko na-survive duon.”
Diaz instead channeled her emotions to her online studies at College of Saint Benilde to keep her occupied during the lockdown while also keeping her training routines.
“Masyado akong nago-overthink kung wala akong ginagawa. Kaya kinuha ko ‘to as opportunity para matuto sa pag-aaral habang nandito ako preparing for Olympics,” she said.
Call for support
For many, Diaz’ victory—the first in the country’s 97-year history as an Olympic participant—is a wake-up call. The Philippine government has been criticized for decades of undercutting sports programs.
Diaz saidt public officials ought to listen to needs of athletes and be with them every step of the way.
“Hindi lang ito about medals, it is also about preparation in the sport. It takes a lot of people para makuha ang gold medal,” Diaz said.
On Tuesday, Malacañang acknowledged that financial support from the government for athletes is insufficient.
“Alam ko po talaga kulang. Para ba hong, para nga pong minimum wage nga lang ang nabibigay nating allowance doon sa mga atleta natin. Titingnan po natin kung paano po natin mababago ito,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.