From selling kwek-kwek to Olympic fame: What Margie Didal’s life can teach us about beating the odds 2
Pinay skateboarder Margielyn Didal remained in her usual high spirits throughout the competition. Photo by Toby Melville, Reuters
Drive

From selling kwek-kwek to Olympic fame: What Margie Didal’s life can teach us about beating the odds

The skateboarding firecracker from Lahug plays by her own rules   
RHIA GRANA | Jul 31 2021

In a world currently ruled by gloom and doom, Margielyn Didal is the mood we all need. Many are most likely now familiar with the 22-year-old Cebuana, the Philippine rep to the Women’s Street Skateboarding Competition in the Tokyo Olympics. 

Over the last few days, we have been witness to Margielyn charming everyone with her hilarious antics and cheerful disposition. There she was doing her happy dance and flashing her signature thumbs-up sign even after a bad landing. There’s her again fist-bumping fellow skaters. Then there’s Margielyn photobombing other athletes’ snaps. Her positive vibe is infectious and there’s no safety protocol to keep from it. 

From selling kwek-kwek to Olympic fame: What Margie Didal’s life can teach us about beating the odds 3
Margielyn Didal of Philippines and Rayssa Leal of Brazil. Photo by Toby Melville, Reuters

Don’t sweat the small stuff 

Margielyn comes from a poor family in Brgy. Lahug, Cebu City. Her father is a carpenter, while her mother is a kwek-kwek vendor. The fifth in a brood of six, Margie would help put food on the table by selling newspapers, working as a barker, and assisting her mother in manning their food stall.

Margie did not have her own skateboard and a proper pair of shoes when she got into skateboarding at 12. But she learned the tricks anyway. How? By borrowing. She would wait for the skaters to have their break and that’s when she’ll skate. There were occasions when skaters would even lend her shoes; she was only wearing a pair of slippers back in the day. “Pinahiram ako ng size 9 na sapatos, [kaso] sobrang liit ng paa ko kaya hinigpitan,” she once shared with CNN Philippines. 

Eventually, to be able to pursue the sport, she would set aside P50 from her raket earnings and rent a skateboard for practice. The kid is a natural, her coach Dani Bautista once noted. Seeing her amazing potential, Bautista’s skating group in Cebu City later helped Margie get better in the sport and take her game to the next level.

From selling kwek-kwek to Olympic fame: What Margie Didal’s life can teach us about beating the odds 4
At the 2020 Tokto Olympics, Didal scored 7.52 points after she botched her last 3 tricks, ahead of last-placer Aori Nishimura (6.92) of Japan. Photo by Toby Melville, Reuters

‘Do what you love’

Margielyn is obviously not the type who likes to play by other people’s rules. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be dabbling in a male-dominated sport, not to mention a sport with a bad rep. Skateboarding, after all, remains widely associated with punks, rebels, and school delinquents, at least where the Filipina Olympian comes from. What Margie knew for sure, however, is that skating is an extreme sport and she could get hurt learning the dangerous stunts. 

But she pursued it anyway, followed her heart. “When I ride the skateboard, I feel that I’m being me. It feels natural,” she told the Olympics YouTube channel. She also likes being able to skate and hang out with the guys. “I feel like maangas ng kaunti,” she said. 

Margielyn realized early on that she had found her place in the world because of skateboarding. She could easily learn the tricks other skaters only get to master after months of training. After a mere few months in, she was already better than half of the boys in her group. Within a year, she was considered one of the best skateboarders in Cebu.

“She’s an amazing skater. She’s kind of a generational talent,” Margielyn’s manager Anthony Claravall told TV5. “She’s naturally gifted.” 

From selling kwek-kwek to Olympic fame: What Margie Didal’s life can teach us about beating the odds 5
Margielyn Didal in action. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

Challenge yourself 

Margielyn knew early on that if she wanted to be better, she had to push herself to the limits. And she did exactly that. In fact, she would often compete with men. The Cebuana told Rappler that three months into the sport, she gathered enough confidence to join her first skating competition—and placed third among the all-male contenders. On her second competition, in 2013, 14-year-old Margie was hailed champion. 

The world started to notice Margie when she won the gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, and two more gold medals in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. She placed 8th in the Street League Skateboarding in London, the biggest skateboarding competition in the world, and also snagged the bronze medal in the first ever Women’s 2020 Tampa Pro Competition. Olympics.com says Margielyn currently ranks as the 14th best women's street skateboarder in the world. 

 

‘Don’t be afraid to fail or to fall’

A sprained left ankle prevented Margielyn from giving her best performance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Natapilok kasi ako nung Sabado pa lang,” she told TV5. “Naging fresh ‘yung tapilok [nung natumba ko].” Because of this, she wasn’t able to successfully showcase the tricks she had up her sleeve. The performance landed her on seventh place among the eight finalists.

The cheerful Cebuana seized the moment nonetheless, cheering for everyone and remaining in her usual high spirits throughout the competition. Her photo doing the thumbs-up landed on the Tokyo Olympics Twitter account. We imagine it’s her way of saying, “I’m still me. I tried. Whatever the result is, I’m just happy to be here.”