Olympics or Bust
Tatler Philippines|July 2021
All fit to fight for the gold in the Tokyo Olympics, these sports champions have the best chances to do their country proud
Chit L Lijauco

The Olympic Games, which originated in ancient Greece about 3,000 years ago, reopened in 1896 in Athens, Greece. Since then, it had been cancelled only three times: in 1916 due to First World War, in 1940 and in 1944 due to Second World War. Covid-19 added to the statistic, when it caused the cancelling of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Held every four years, the world’s preeminent sporting competition has been rescheduled this month in Tokyo. As of this writing, ten Filipino athletes are officially going to the Olympics. Joining the first eight qualifiers (featured here with our US Women’s Open champion whose participation is yet to be announced) are Filipino taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa and skateboarding’s Margielyn Didal.

YUKA SASO

Women’s Golf

By winning the recent US Women’s Open in San Francisco, California, Yuka Saso scored a historic victory for her country, the Philippines. She also qualified to compete in the Tokyo Olympics but excited as she is about this possibility, she would rather take things in stride. Her focus, for now, are the eight tournaments still on the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) calendar before the golf competition in Tokyo on August 4-7.

Saso, 19, was born in San Ildefonso, Bulacan but moved to Japan at the age of four with her Filipina mother and Japanese father who would bring her to the golf course with him. She got interested in the sport and when she showed promise, her father brought her back to the Philippines so she can home-school and work on becoming a pro, which happened in 2019.

The first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open idolises Rory Mcllroy, developing an uncannily similar swing with the pro golfer from Northern Ireland.

While Saso awaits an official announcement about her joining the Olympics, two other golfers can also qualify for the Tokyo Games: Bianca Pagdanganan and Juvic Pagunsan.

HIDILYN DIAZ

Weightlifting

DIY concrete barbells, even broken and rusty ones can produce a champion; weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz showed everybody how by qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. Born in the village of Mampang in Zamboanga City on February 20, 1991, the fifth of six children of the farmer/fisherman Eduardo and housewife Emelita picked up the sport on the influence of cousins who were all weightlifters. From then on, she has won all the medals that she could win in both local and international competitions in the women’s weightlifting category, reaching almost the top with her silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Now, the first and, so far, the only Filipina to ever win an Olympic medal is just one heave away from the gold.

While an Olympic gold currently holds her undivided attention, Diaz has looked to the future with concrete plans. In a podcast she revealed that her next goal after Tokyo is to finish her business management degree at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. The degree will serve her well in the businesses she has put up, HD Cleaning Services and Komida Foods.

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