A pair of Olympic gold medalists paid Philippine Sports Commission chairperson Jose Emmanuel “Noli” Eala a visit to catch up and discuss how they can help the agency boost its plans and programs for women in sports.
Bowling legend Arianne Cerdeña-Valdez and weightlifting superstar Hidilyn Diaz met Eala for the first time when they visited the PSC main office at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Friday.
The 60-year-old Cerdeña-Valdez won the country’s “first” Olympic gold medal in the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.
Unfortunately, her feat didn’t reflect in the official medal tally as bowling was still considered as a demonstration sport at that time.
Twenty years later, the country won a gold medal anew, this time from wushu artist Willy Wang.
Like Cerdeña-Valdez, his victory wasn’t included in the medal tally as wushu was a demonstration sport played for Chinese audience during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Diaz, however, made sure that the country will finally win its first official gold medal after a 97-year participation when she ruled the women’s -55kg event of the Tokyo Olympics last year.
“You will always have the support of the PSC. Thanks for the visit and the long talk, Hidilyn. Mabuhay,” Eala told Diaz in a social media post shortly after their meeting.
Cerdeña-Valdez, who was welcomed by Eala and her fellow bowling great in sports commissioner Olivia “Bong” Coo, said she was overwhelmed seeing Diaz for the first time.
“I’m so overwhelmed to meet out Olympic champion, our gold medalist, for the very first time,” said the legendary bowler, who is now a Registered Nurse at the Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“I am a frontliner so I’m focused on my job right now. But when I retire, hopefully, I will be in sports. I plan to live here.”
Diaz said she was also glad to meet her fellow “golden girl.”
“Of course, I’m so happy because I only see her in the news as the country’s first Olympic gold medalist in bowling. I’m happy to see her and know her story,” said Diaz, who was accompanied by her husband and coach, Julius Naranjo.
Diaz added that talking to Cerdeña-Valdez gave her an idea of what life would be after retirement.
“I will be retiring soon so it’s good to know what would be the things that I would go through when I retire,” said the 31-year-old pride of Zamboanga.
“From being an Olympic gold medalist to becoming a frontliner, it’s really a big deal for us to have options should we decide to shift career. We thought we don’t have any options. So, it really inspires us.
Thank you for being a frontliner and for bringing pride to the country.”