The Philippines gained gold medals in four sporting events—weightlifting, individual golf, team golf, and skateboarding—at the 2018 Asian Games. All these medalists were women.
Certainly this feat is worthy of praise. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Lois Kaye Go and skateboarder Margielyn Didal did our country proud. They overcame adversity, persevered in their training, exceeded expectations, defeated the competition and set a good example to the youth.
We likewise acknowledge the efforts of all other athletes who bore our flag. While they did not achieve the same results, they prepared hard and gave their best, nonetheless.
Sadly, for Filipino athletes, victory comes in spite of inadequate government support, not because of an outpouring of it.
The athletes themselves brought up this perennial problem in sports training.
After her gold win, for instance, Diaz herself posted a poem on social media. The poem repeatedly used the phrase “atleta lang
(mere athlete)” and referred to a high official in Philippine sports who appeared to regard her this way.
In an interview with Sports5, Diaz also said she had been faulted for making request after request—presumably for support—even as expectations of her were too high.
She went on and earned her gold, anyway, and is looking to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo two years from now.
While it is true that a law was recently enacted to provide incentives to athletes, such benefits will be reaped only after the fact. How can many other athletes reach their winning form in the first place when they have to worry about funding their preparations instead of going straight to improving their performance?
Our athletes are never “just” athletes. They are treasures that bring us recognition. They are living examples of what the virtues of hard work, humility and discipline can do. They unify us as a people.
Being part of their journey is not limited to having them do courtesy calls or posting congratulatory messages. They need their government’s support—especially the tangible kind.