POSTSCRIPT / August 1, 2021 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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View Diaz gold win sans political color

THE acid test of Hidilyn Diaz’s Olympic gold medal is not so much in how she maintains her grip on the 55 kg weightlifting class that she now rules as in what we all do together to insulate her rare gift to the nation from being tarnished by politics.

For ending the country’s 97-year chase of the elusive Olympic gold, Diaz was given by the government the ₱10-million incentive provided tax-free under RA 10699.

Her winning feat of lifting a record 127 kg in the clean and jerk event triggered a downpour of millions in cash and other valuable gifts such as condos and houses that as of the last reporting had an estimated value of ₱100 million.

To get an idea of what the stocky 4-feet-11 Diaz did in Tokyo, try swinging onto your shoulders and carrying for five seconds 2-1/2 sacks of rice, the equivalent of the 127 kg she lifted to set an Olympic record and grab the gold. One honest sack of rice in Manila weighs 50 kg.

The 30-year-old air force sergeant deserves to keep all her rewards, considering the trials she had to pass to earn them. The question in our mind is not if she would share the bonanza with others (because she is a Filipina we won’t be surprised if she would), but how.

If Diaz is interested in supporting sports development, finance experts would be needed to help grow even just a modest seed fund from her ₱100 million, which is mostly non-cash and probably not big enough for the purpose.

Outside of her immediate family, about whom not much has been written, we think of her giving “balato” to the team that stuck it out with her while training in extremis in Malaysia using, for instance, weights improvised from huge water bottles and a bamboo pole.

The fact that her coach was a Chinese need not politicize her depriving China of a sweep of the golds in women weightlifting. Then there was also the Malaysian sports official who gave her group shelter for seven months in his village away from the pandemic-hit capital.

These details of Diaz’s trek to Tokyo highlight the value of focus, discipline, teamwork as well as networking. They also underscore the point that in most situations, we should be able to reach out to kindred others regardless of their nationality or political views.

Aside from the P10 million due her, President Duterte told Diaz she would receive P3 million from his office, and a fully furnished house and lot from him in her native Zamboanga City. They talked Wednesday during her virtual call on him after she arrived in Manila.

Seeing the air force sergeant saluting her Commander-in-Chief reminded us of our having been moved the day before by the sight of a tearful Diaz with the reflex of a Filipino soldier snappily saluting when the Philippine anthem was played after she captured the gold medal.

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TUCKED away momentarily during her call was that day in 2019 when chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo mentioned Diaz (also star volleyball player and TV host Gretchen Ho) in connection with an alleged plot to oust Duterte.

Panelo had displayed in a media briefing a “matrix” showing the supposed links of Diaz and others to the alleged plan. She has denied any involvement in such a plot.

Duterte may have been referring to that incident when he told her: “Salamat naman sa pagtiis mo (Thank you for how you’ve endured). I hope that the years of toil, the years of disappointments, and the years na hindi maganda ang nangyari (when unpleasant things happened) in the past, just forget them.

“You already have the gold. Gold is gold. It can be good for you to just let bygones be bygones and dwell solely on your victory together with your family and, of course, with the nation.”

Politics should not tarnish her triumph at the Tokyo Games as partisanship stains almost everything in this country. It is intriguing that in one of her videos being shown lately on social media, Diaz was saying as if referring to the May 2022 presidential elections:

“Ang iboboto ko? Yong pinunong may pusong winner, hindi pusong talunan. Yong maka-Diyos at makatao, hindi makasarili. Yong magbibigay ng kalinga, hindi takot. Kayo rin di ba?” (Who will I vote for? A leader with the heart of a winner, not of a loser. Who is for God and his people, not for himself. Who truly cares and doesn’t instill fear. Will you vote for this leader, too?)

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MANY governments give their athletes cash rewards for winning Olympic medals. Samples for gold rewards: Singapore, $737,000; Malaysia, $236,000; Italy, $213,000; Philippines, $205,000 (₱10 million); Japan, $45,000; US, $37,500; Canada, $16,000; and Australia, $15,000.

Aside from the cash and gifts promised or given to Diaz, she can expect a number of product endorsements that could bring in a hefty amount. So far, these are some of the gifts and pledges received by her:

* ₱10 million cash incentive from the government through RA 10699 or the National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act; ₱2.5 million cash incentive from the local government of Zamboanga City, her hometown.

* ₱10 million pledged by businessman Manny Pangilinan through the MVP Sports Foundation; ₱10 million by San Miguel Corp. president and CEO Ramon S. Ang; ₱5 million cash and free fuel for life by Siklab Atleta Sports Foundation head and Phoenix Petroleum chair Dennis Uy.

* A ₱14-million residential condo unit in Eastwood, Quezon City, pledged by Megaworld; a ₱4-million house and lot at any PHirst Park Homes community of her choice by Century Properties; ₱3 million and a house and lot in Zamboanga by President Duterte; ₱3 million pledged by Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero; a house and lot in Tagaytay courtesy of Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino.

* 80,000 free air miles per year for life offered by Philippine Airlines; a lifetime of free flights offered by AirAsia Philippines.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 1, 2021)

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