MANILA, Philippines – Weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz asked embattled pole vaulter EJ Obiena to stay the course as he teeters on the brink of being expelled from the national team by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).
Obiena, who is currently recovering from a knee surgery, has been given two weeks to explain his side after PATAFA recommended his expulsion over falsified liquidation documents regarding the salary of his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.
“Alam ko ‘yung pinagdadaanan mo. Naiintindihan kita. Mahirap maging atleta pero isipin natin na ginagawa natin ito para sa Pilipinas,” Diaz said in the Level Up program of Radyo Katipunan.
(I know what you’re going through. I understand you. It’s hard being an athlete but we should always think that we’re doing this for the Philippines.)
“May mga time siguro na kinukwestiyon mo kung bakit, may mga time na parang ayaw mo na, lalong lalo ngayon may injury ka. Isipin mo na lang ‘yung team behind mo na hindi sila sumusuko sa ‘yo, naniniwala sila sa ‘yo.“
(There may be times that you question why all of these things are happening, there may be times that you want to give up, especially now that you’re injured. You just have to think about the team behind you that does not give up on you and believes in you.)
Over a week ago, boxer Eumir Marcial also threw his support for his fellow Olympian Obiena.
Diaz also faced adversity before she made history as the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist when she reigned in the Tokyo Games last year.
Back in 2019, Diaz – who already made history then as the country’s first female Olympic silver medalist – got admonished by sports officials when she asked on social media for financial support for her training.
That same year, in the middle of her preparations for Tokyo, Diaz also feared for her life when the administration named her in its ouster matrix, a chart of people supposedly plotting to unseat President Rodrigo Duterte.
Like Obiena who is training in Italy, Diaz has first-hand experience how difficult it is to live in foreign land when she and her team got stranded in Malaysia amid the pandemic for over a year before the Olympics.
“Alam ko medyo mahirap. Mahirap ang pinagdadaanan mo ngayon. Alam ko ‘yung hirap na mag-liquidate. Alam ko rin ‘yung nandiyan ka sa Italy na mag-isa, malayo sa pamilya,” Diaz said.
(I know it’s quite hard right now, especially with what you’re going through. I know how hard it is to liquidate. I also know how hard it is that you’re alone in Italy, away from your family.)
“Huwag kang sumuko. Kahit ano mang binabato sa ‘yong mga sinasabi diyan, huwag kang sumuko. Kayang-kaya mo ‘yan. Ang dami mong pinagdaanan na eh so gusto ko lang sabihin na kayang-kaya mo yan and see you sa Paris 2024.”
(Don’t ever give up. No matter what they throw at you, don’t give up. I know you can survive all of that. You’ve been through a lot so I just want to say that you can do it and see you in Paris 2024.)
Obiena said he has been in constant communication with Diaz, asking her for advice on the ins and outs of Philippine sports.
“She has been a different kind of mentor. She literally walked this path. Thank you for guiding me and letting me know what is out there and what I should be wary of,” Obiena said.
“Just having her support, really thankful.”
Obiena, the Asian record holder, will return to action in the Init Indoor Meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany on January 28. – Rappler.com