Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang might be busy preparing for his match against Zhang Lipeng at ONE: BATTLEGROUND II, but that doesn’t mean he’s looking past the national athletes who’ll be carrying the Philippines in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The Filipino superstar will be cheering for the 19-strong Team Philippines as they look to win the country's first-ever Olympic gold medal.
One person he'll keep an eye on is weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who won the silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I’ve always been supportive of Hidilyn Diaz. I saw her when she was just starting, way back in 2007 when we were in one training camp in China for the wild card qualifications. She was so young back then,” Folayang recalled.
“I jumped to professional mixed martial arts, and then I started seeing her in the news, that she’d been winning medals, up to the time where she won a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. I’m really hoping and praying she gets the gold medal in the Olympics.”
"The Landslide" was particularly impressed with Diaz's commitment to the national team, as she went from a wildcard entry in 2008 to one of the favorites to win.
“I’m really impressed by Hidilyn’s rise, mainly because I saw it for myself. I’ve been able to teach her a few things in some ways. I’ve been able to bond with her a bit in China. Of course, we’re in different sports, but we were one team [in China] for the Philippines,” Folayang said.
“I’m so impressed with her improvements. Imagine, from that time to now, she’s still here. I’m so proud of her and I wish her the best.”
Folayang saw the Zamboanguena's transformation from a carefree teenager to an Olympian, and he could only attribute it to her grit and self-belief.
“My first impression was that she was a bit immature because she was still young. But I know from the onset that she always had a vision for herself,” Folayang said.
“She knows what she wants to happen, and in that short span she was able to make it happen by giving it all during training and preparation, so I’m just proud of her.”
Before Team Philippines embarks on their journey to immortality, Folayang sent a message to his fellow national athletes, assuring them that he'll have their back no matter what happens in Japan.
“I just want to tell Team Philippines to give everything you can by the guidance of God. You are representing this nation in different sports and we’re praying for a successful run. You have to think of all the hardships that you went through to be there,” Folayang said.
“You have to make the most out of the opportunity. Just think of the legacy that you will be leaving behind if you’re able to get what you truly wish for. I am really praying for you guys. I hope you all take home medals.”
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