MANILA, Philippines -- When Hidilyn Diaz competes in Tokyo for her fourth Olympic Games, she won't have any family and friends in the stands to cheer for her.
The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have decided not to allow international spectators for the global event, over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Most international volunteers will not be allowed to enter the country as well, and it still remains to be seen if families of athletes can attend the Games.
For Diaz, the decision made by the organizers is understandable, even if it deeply saddened her as well.
"Medyo malungkot, kasi marami din akong kaibigan na gustong pumunta -- to cheer (for) me, to see the most historical moment, 'di ba, para sa Pilipinas," said Diaz during an appearance on the "So She Did!" podcast this weekend.
Diaz is looking to improve upon the silver medal that she won in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She expects to formalize her entry into the Tokyo Games upon her participation in the Asian Weightlifting Championships, set for April 16-25 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The Filipina, who is ranked fifth in the world behind four Chinese lifters, hopes to give the country its first ever gold medal in the Olympic Games but will have to do so without her supporters in attendance.
"Kailangan natin intindihin na nasa pandemic tayo ngayon," said Diaz, who has trained in Malaysia in the past year. "Gaya ng sabi ng IOC, 'yung health first, 'yung safety muna ng Japan, ng Japanese, ng buong mundo."
"Nasa pandemic tayo, so I understand them."
The Olympics had already been postponed from 2020 to 2021, and Diaz said not having international spectators is better than not having the Games at all.
"Kaysa wala," she pointed out. "Sobrang mas lalo akong masa-sad."
"Ang daming atleta na nag-sakripisyo, ang daming atleta na ginive up lahat for Olympics, then hindi matutuloy."
Diaz and her team will head for Uzbekistan a week before the competition to acclimatize and ensure that they comply with all COVID-19 protocols.
"Mahirap na, baka mahawa ka sa iba," she said. "So mas okay 'yung andoon ka, at prepared ka. Mas okay na prepared ka talaga."
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