Former ONE lightweight champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang is used to being the one cheered by thousands of people.
However, as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gets going, he will be one of the millions of Filipinos cheering for Team Philippines as it looks for its first gold medal in sports' biggest stage.
Folayang looks at 2016 Rio Olympics weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz as a favorite, especially since they crossed paths back when the Baguio City native was with the national wushu team.
“I’ve always been supportive of Hidilyn Diaz. I saw her when she was just starting, way back in 2007 when we were in one training camp in China for the wild card qualifications. She was so young back then,” Folayang said.
“I jumped to professional mixed martial arts, and then I started seeing her in the news, that she’d been winning medals, up to the time where she won a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. I’m really hoping and praying she gets the gold medal in the Olympics.”
Folayang is impressed with Diaz’s dedication to the national team, as the 30-year-old pride of Zamboanga City enters her fourth Olympics. Diaz started as a wide-eyed 17-year-old in 2008 before clawing her way to the top.
Now she comes in as one of the strongest prospects of breaking that gold medal spell for the country, and Folayang hopes Diaz pulls through when she takes centerstage on July 26 in the women’s 55-kilogram division.
“I’m really impressed by Hidilyn’s rise, mainly because I saw it for myself. I’ve been able to teach her a few things in some ways. I’ve been able to bond with her a bit in China. Of course, we’re in different sports, but we were one team [in China] for the Philippines,” Folayang said.
“I’m so impressed with her improvements. Imagine, from that time to now, she’s still here. I’m so proud of her and I wish her the best.”
Moreover, Folayang noted that Diaz has always looked at the bigger picture.
“My first impression was that she was a bit immature, because she was still young. But I know from the onset that she always had a vision for herself,” Folayang said.
“She knows what she wants to happen, and in that short span she was able to make it happen by giving it all during training and preparation, so I’m just proud of her.”
But it’s not just Diaz that Folayang will be rooting for. He promises to cheer for every athlete in the 19-strong delegation that the Philippines is sending to Tokyo.
“I just want to tell Team Philippines to give everything you can by the guidance of God. You are representing this nation in different sports and we’re praying for a successful run. You have to think of all the hardships that you went through to be there,” Folayang said.
“You have to make the most out of the opportunity. Just think of the legacy that you will be leaving behind if you’re able to get what you truly wish for. I am really praying for you guys. I hope you all take home medals.”
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