Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Limpag: Doing the impossible

Mike Limpag

Fair Play

I GUESS you can call it a sign of how fractured the country is when hours after Hidilyn Diaz won our first gold medal, the country’s divide was made obvious. One camp called it the country’s first gold medal under Duterte, while another scoffed at the idea of the admin taking credit after including the athlete in a destabilization plot while she was in the thick of preparations for Tokyo two years ago.

Nobody called Onyok Velasco’s silver medal the first under the Ramos administration and one camp’s insistence to credit anything to Duterte kind of removes the luster of the gold. And yes, so does the other camp’s insisting that it was the Aquino administration that institutionalized the giving of incentives to athletes with his bill signed in 2015.

Though Hidilyn Diaz appealed for support in 2019, she is and was the athlete who got unprecedented support from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) owing to her 2016 success. Not only did she have a full time coach, she also had a nutritionist and a sports psychologist. And remember, for a time there was infighting between the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas and the Philippine Weightlifting Association.

Normally the PSC would take a hands-off approach and wait for the conflict to be resolved before it would recognize the concerned NSA’s national athletes.

But not in the case of Diaz. The PSC supported her directly despite the infighting.

As for Aquino institutionalizing the giving of incentives as claimed by one senator, what was signed in 2015 merely expanded the 2001 Act and increased the prizes for the Olympic gold medal from P5 million to P10 million.

I remember how the country was so united behind Onyok Velasco and how we all agreed with the commentator when he cried, “WE ARE BEING ROBBED IN ATLANTA!!!” The clamor was so great that when he got home there were even discussions to hold a rematch.

I guess that was a different Philippines.

But perhaps it would be great if we could see a glimpse of that during the rest of the games. To celebrate our athletes’ achievement on the biggest stage without being divided by politics. To see the gold without our own political colors hampering judgment.

That has proved to be almost impossible in the last major meets -- the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games -- and even the games involving Gilas Pilipinas and Manny Pacquiao’s matches.

But Hidilyn Diaz showed she can do the impossible. Perhaps we can also do the impossible?


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