Philippines’ Olympic gold medalists, bowling legend Arianne Cerdeña-Valdez and weightlifting superstar Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo met for the very first time on Friday, when they paid a courtesy visit to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Jose Emmanuel Eala and PSC Commissioner Bong Coo at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila.
Cerdeña-Valdez, 60, won the country’s “first” Olympic gold medal in 1988 at the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. However, since bowling was being played as a demo sport at that time, it was not counted towards our official medal count.
After 33 years, four-time weightlifting Olympian Diaz-Naranjo lifted the country’s hope and golden dream into reality after finally winning the ‘official’ gold medal for Team Philippines in the 2020+1 Tokyo Olympics.
“I’m so overwhelmed to meet our Olympic champion, our gold medalist [Hidilyn Diaz] for the very first time. I’ve only been seeing her in pictures and reading her in newspapers, Youtube and I’m so overwhelmed. Thank you so much.” expressed Philippine Sports Hall of Famer Cerdeña-Valdez in an exclusive interview with the PSC-PCO team.
“Syempre ako sobrang saya kasi nakikita ko lang sya sa news as Olympic gold medalist in bowling. Masaya po akong makita ka Ma’am [Arianne] and to know your story.” shared Diaz-Naranjo, who was accompanied by her husband Julius Naranjo during the courtesy visit.
The two Filipina sports legends expressed their willingness to work with Commissioner Coo in reaching out to many Filipinas to be empowered and be part of the growing number of women in sports in the country.
At present, Cerdeña-Valdez is a Registered Nurse at the Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center in the U.S. but not closing her doors to be back in sports someday, “I am a frontliner so right now yun ang focus ko muna. But when I retire, hopefully, I will be in sports. I plan to live here.” said the bowling legend who is based in Los Angeles, California.
Meanwhile, Diaz-Naranjo is busy training for the 2024 Paris Olympics, finalizing her thesis requirements in college with a degree in Business Management, and helping the development of the sport nationwide. She admitted that she got inspiration from Cerdeña-Valdez.
“Magreretire na ako soon so nalaman ko yung pinagdaanan mo after retirement and it gives me inspiration. From being an Olympic gold medalist then ngayon frontliner. Malaking bagay yun sa amin na pwede pa lang mag-shift to other career path ang isang atleta kasi sobrang focus kami, akala namin wala na. So, it gives us inspiration. Thank you for being a frontliner at pagbigay ng pride sa Pilipinas.” Diaz-Naranjo said.
“Gusto ko sanang i-congratulate ka for everything – – your winnings and your love and support for this country. It’s very rare that that happens. You’re selfless, you think of the sports hindi lang para sa sarili mo but you think of the Filipinos to be good and excel like you and I do thank you for that and admire you.” Cerdeña-Valdez responded.
The two Olympic champions also left inspiring messages and advice to the young athletes, especially to the youth which might serve as a guiding path to success and be champions like them.
“It’s more of the passion for sports. Hindi porke’t gusto mo ng gold, makukuha mo agad. It’s hardwork, patience and dedication to the sport. Just don’t give up, love the sport and it will come, enjoy. There are sacrifices that has to be made for sports. It’s not an easy win, not an easy feat to excel but you know, Pilipino tayo, kaya natin yan.” Cerdeña-Valdez expressed.
“Lahat kasi ng mga bata ngayon nasa telepono na, nasa Facebook, gusto nila instantly makukuha nila. Gusto ko lang sabihin na sa sports, you really have to earn it and really work hard para ma-achieve yung dream mo. So, be disciplined and focus on what you want to do in life and dream high. Kayang kaya mo yan.” concluded Diaz-Naranjo.