Hidilyn Diaz dreams of seeing weightlifting at Palarong Pambansa
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz dreams of one day seeing her sport of weightlifting in the annual Palarong Pambansa, the country's biggest sporting event for student-athletes.
In a Facebook post, Diaz, who competed and won in weightlifting at least year's Rio Olympics, admitted she had no idea how to make her wish happen, but knew she wanted weightlifting included even in top collegiate tournaments like the UAAP and NCAA.
"Maraming nagme-message at nagtatanong, kailan daw magkakaroon ng weightlifting sa lugar nila at sa Palaro kasi gusto nila maging gaya ko," she wrote.
(Many have been messaging, asking me when they will see weightlifting in their region and at Palaro, because they want to be like me.)
"May mga bagay talaga gusto kong gawin pero 'di ko hawak ang mga desisyon at wala akong alam sa proseso. Pangarap ko mapasok ang weightlifting sa Palaro, NCAA at UAAP."
(There are things I want to do but I don't control the decision-making and I don't know the process. My dream is for weightlifting to be included in Palaro, NCAA, and UAAP.)
"Baka hanggang pangarap na lang ako (It might just stay a dream)," added Diaz, who gave Rappler permission to publish her post.
This year's Palaro in Antique, which wrapped up this past weekend with National Capital Region bagging the overall title once more, introduced 3 new demonstration or demo sports in aero gymnastics, dancesport, and pencak silat.
For a sport to become a regular fixture at Palaro, it must first bide its time as a demo sport, which means it does not count in the official medal tally per region.
One sport that made the transition this year from demo to regular sport is futsal, and it took at least 4 years.
Currently in discussion
The potential inclusion of weightlifting in Palaro is currently still in the initial discussions stage, according to Department of Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali.
"Kailangan pag-usapan itong mabuti. Pati 'yung mga pag-aaral, halimbawa, na ang weightlifting ba ay magandang palakasan para sa menor de edad, considering na may mga nagsasabi maaaring hindi po ito scientifically proven yet, na maaaring makaapekto ito sa paglaki ng bata," he explained to Rappler in a phone interview.
"So kailangan pagisipan nang mabuti. 'Yun ang mga considerations natin."
(It needs to be thoroughly discussed. Even the studies, for example, about whether weightlifting is a good sport for minors, considering some are saying it isn't scientifically proven yet, that it might affect a child's growth. So we need to think about it carefully. Those are our considerations.)
Umali shared that the context behind the initial talks revolves around searching for sports where Filipinos can garner gold medals in the future.
"Naturally, weightlifting should be one of them," he said. "Pero you have boxing, and boxing naman hindi natin pinahihintulutan sa elementarya dahil it involves a lot of contact, kaya sa high school naman natin ito ginagawa. Bagamat ito'y isang palakasan na maaari talaga tayo magkaroon ng medalyang ginto."
(But you have boxing, and it isn't allowed in elementary competitions because it involves a lot of contact, so it's permitted in high school instead. Even though it's a sport that can bring us gold medals.)
There is no definitive timeline for weightlifting – or any sport for that matter – to be included at Palaro, according to Umali.
"It could be quick or it may take time," he said. "Depende. Titignan natin 'yung whether ito'y isang palakasan na katanggap-tanggap sa buong Pilipinas."
(It depends. Let's see whether this is a sport that's acceptable across the country.)
According to Umali, once a sport becomes a demonstration sport at Palaro, its success in terms of the number of student-athletes participating will largely determine whether it moves up as a regular sport.
And for a sport to make its entry, it has to go through the Palaro's secretary-general where it will be thoroughly vetted. The Palaro Board makes the final decision.
Weightlifting, despite the international successes of Filipinos, remains outside of mainstream collegiate or youth sports.
Diaz, for one, was groomed in her home province of Zamboanga City and she shuttled back and forth to Metro Manila for training with the national team. The same is true for her compatriot Nestor Colonia, who also competed at Rio and won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships.
Diaz is contributing to grassroots development of Filipino weightlifters through her local gym, where she encourages kids to take up the sport. – Rappler.com