REACHING the stage of the world's premier sports spectacle, the Olympics, is already a feat for any athlete.
Davao City's two-time Olympian diver Sheila Mae Perez, in a Facebook Messenger interview with SunStar Davao Wednesday, July 8, said: "Yun na kasi pinakamataas na level ng competition. Like ang hirap makapasok kasi andami mo pang papasukin o maipasa na World Cup bago mag-qualify (Olympics is the highest level of competition. It's difficult to enter as you have to undergo and pass a series of qualifying tournaments)."
During her time, she said divers had to make it to the top five of a qualifying tournament such as the World Cup or Grand Prix to book an Olympic berth.
The 34-year-old Dabawenya, who hails from Sasa, made her debut in the Sydney 2000 Olympics women's three-meter springboard at age 14, making her among the youngest participants.
"Dati kami ni Rexel Ryan Fabriga nag top five mi sa Hong Kong Grand Prix. Tong para sa Beijing overall group A or B dapat mag top six ka. Kinsa magtop sa group A og B, kamo na maglaban-laban (Rexel Ryan Fabriga and I qualified after making it to the top five of the Hong Kong Grand Prix. For the Beijing Olympics, whoever made it to the top six in both groups in the qualifying event advanced and competed against each other)," she said.
She also recalled, "The most unforgettable Olympics is in Sydney, Australia in 2000 kay ako ang pinakabata and na surprise ko sa mga nahitabo kay never ko nag expect na ma reach ko yung ganung level na competition (because I was the youngest and I was surprised since I never expected I could reach such a high level competition)."
She next saw action in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She remembered that earning a slot in the Olympics entailed a lot of hard work and determination as she trained nine times a week with then Philippines national diving team's Chinese coach Zhang Dehu to whom she attributed her Olympics stints.
"Feeling proud kaayo, labi na dala-dala nimo ang name sa imong country. Usahay ma overwhelm ka sa mga proud pud sa imohang na achieve (It made me proud to represent my country in the Olympics)," she added.
In the opening ceremonies, she reminisces feeling nervous and excited at the same time since the competition will soon start.
Perez, now a Petty Officer Third Class at the Philippine Coast Guard, urged athletes, who dream of being an Olympian, to just focus on training and not to pressure one's self in winning a medal.
She rose to stardom in 2005 after she clinched three gold medals in the 23rd Philippines Southeast Asian (Games), earning her the SEA Games diving queen title.
She also won a gold and a silver in the 2007 SEA Games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand; a silver in 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos; and a bronze in 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia.
Perez and fellow diver Zardo Domenios of Panacan were the first Davao City Olympians who both competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Another Dabawenyo diver Fabriga joined Perez in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since then, no Davao City athlete has competed in the quadrennial Games.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, originally set to start this month, was rescheduled next year due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) global pandemic.