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POA to explore scholarship for Hidilyn

Philippine Olympians Association chairman Paing Hechanova (center) and PSC chairman Butch Ramirez (third from left) honor Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz with past Filipino Olympians (from left) Rep. Monsour del Rosario, Akiko Thomson, Weena Lim, Roel Velasco and Stephen Fernandez.

MANILA, Philippines - Rio Olympic women’s 53-kilogram weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz was recently feted by the Philippine Olympians Association (POA) during its regular board meeting at the Manila Golf and Country Club with chairman Paing Hechanova looking into the possibility of arranging a scholarship for the 25-year-old Zamboangueña to pursue a course in a sports-related field or in business.

Diaz, a three-time Olympian, was inducted as a POA member two years ago and attended the meeting on Hechanova’s invitation. “Basically, we wanted to congratulate Hidilyn and inquire about her plans, how the POA can support her and the PSC’s endeavors,” said POA president Akiko Thomson who represented the country in swimming at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics. “We reminded her that we are a resource group she can tap. As a result of our discussion, we are exploring the possibility of Hidilyn pursuing a course in either a sports-related field and/or business at College of St. Benilde where our board member Stephen Fernandez is athletic director. At the moment, Hidilyn is pursuing an IT-related course which she isn’t so keen about.”

Diaz finished up to third year of college and Fernandez, who claimed a bronze medal in taekwondo when it was a demonstration sport at the 1992 Olympics, said she intends to complete her studies for an undergraduate degree.  Fernandez was the La Salle taekwondo coach for 24 years.

Hechanova, a 1952 Helsinki Olympian with the Philippine basketball team, said Diaz is an inspiration to aspiring Filipino athletes. “Her winning has shown that with proper training, discipline and determination, our athletes can be competitive in certain sports disciplines,” he said. “Hidilyn has stated that she will pursue her training and her ambition to win a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The POA board extends its congratulations to Hidilyn as an Olympic silver medalist.”

Hechanova said the POA was organized to promote the Olympic spirit and sports in general with Filipino Olympians as members. It is affiliated with the World Olympians Association which is recognized by the IOC.

Thomson said Makati Rep. Monsour del Rosario, who competed in the demonstration sport of taekwondo at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is crafting a bill to provide benefits for Filipino Olympians similar to what senior citizens receive.

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Thomson said Diaz persevered in her dream to bag an Olympic medal and never gave up despite forgettable finishes in 2008 and 2012. “Hard work, persistence, a lot of continued sacrifices and the willingness to make changes, such as dropping down a weight category from 58 to 53 kilograms and a touch of good fortune” were the factors Thomson cited that led to the silver medal.

Thomson said as a POA member, Diaz could play a pivotal role in inspiring Filipino athletes to achieve the Olympic dream. “There are innumerable ways for Hidilyn to inspire Filipino athletes as she is already doing by sharing her story and hers is an inspiring one,” continued Thomson. “But she will be a little harder to pin down with all her engagements.”

Thomson said representing the country in the Olympics is an achievement in itself. “Making it to the Olympics is no easy feat,” she said. “That is a journey and the highest aspiration and honor of an athlete is to represent his or her country at the Olympics. Being an Olympian is something few can claim and something that can’t be taken away. Once an Olympian, always an Olympian.”

Reflecting on Diaz’ own road to glory, Thomson said it’s about pursuing excellence and being the best one can be. “Pushing ourselves to the limit, when we think we can’t possibly go further,” she said. “There is so much sacrifice and hard work involved that can be learned from, especially in this age of instant gratification. There is no short-cut. Athletes dedicate years of their lives for the chance to get to the Olympics.”

To promote Olympism and the spirit of sportsmanship, Thomson said the POA plans to mobilize Filipino Olympians and organize campus tours where they could share their Olympic stories with students. “We have approximately 300 Filipino Olympians, some of whom are now deceased,” she said. “When our late president Art Macapagal passed on, we had to rebuild our data base and now, we’ve got almost 100 Olympians with bios. Apart from the General Assembly which we organize yearly, I’m keen on getting a school tour up and going to public schools. The idea is to set a platform for our Olympians to share their stories, to relate their journey and encourage the youth to get involved in sports.”

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