How Hidilyn fought mental breakdown while preparing for Olympics under COVID lockdown

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2021 10:47 AM | Updated as of Jul 29 2021 11:07 AM

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MANILA—Olympian Hidilyn Diaz on Thursday said just like many athletes, she had a "mental breakdown" upon the news that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would have to be postponed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with ANC's "Headstart", Diaz said athletes usually train 7 to 9 times per week and to be told that they suddenly cannot do so was "nakakabaliw" or causing craziness. Then to the postponement, Diaz mimed a frozen reaction.

"Nu'ng sinabi na 'yung Olympics ma-postpone, umiiyak talaga ako, tapos 'yung coaches ko naaawa. Pero good thing nandyan sila, pinakinggan nila ako at sinabi nila na we will stay, we will be here, we will support you," she said while fighting back tears.

"Malaking bagay 'yun sa akin kasi nga 'yun 'yung down time moment ko kasi ilang beses akong nag-prepare. Good thing hindi nila ako iniwan, malaking bagay yun sa akin kasi kung wala sila, baka hindi ko ma-survive yung doon."

(When it was annoucned that the Olympics would be postponed, I really cried and my coaches took pity on me. But it's a good thing that they were there, they listened to me, and they said we will stay, we will be here, we will support you. That was a big deal to me because that was my down time moment because I had been preparing for this numerous times. Good thing they didn't leave me. That was big for me because without them, I couldn't have survived it.) 

The postponement of the Games meant 15 more months of preparing, and Diaz recalled telling herself: "Akala ko matatapos na. Kaya ko pa ba?" (I thought it's almost over. Can I still do it?) 

How Hidilyn fought mental breakdown while preparing for Olympics under COVID lockdown 1
This picture taken on May 21, 2021 shows Olympic weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines taking part in a training session in Jasin in the Malaysian city of Malacca. Mohd Rasfan, AFP/file

She's thankful her team included a sports psychologist whom she calls Doc Karen, who advised her to take it day by day instead of planning for the whole 15 months. 

"Ginawa ko, day by day naging grateful ako, day by day naging productive ako, day by day naghahanap ako ng paraan: nagluluto, nagmi-meeting," she said, referring to her involvement with "Project Steady."

(What I did was, day by day I was being grateful, day by day, I became productive, day by day I found ways: cooking, meeting.)

And then, with the lockdowns, she also had time to return to fulfilling another one of her dreams: a college diploma. 

"Nag-aral din ako. Sabi ko, now may online studies so mag-aaral ako para hindi ako magda-drama after training. So after traning, nag-aaral ako para wala akong time para mag-drama sa gabi," she said.

(I also studied. I said there are online studies now, so I will study so I won't cry after training. So after training, I studied so I won't have time to cry at night.) 

While she said she turned to studying to not allow herself time to "drama" after training, she also revealed that she had to stop schooling at the College of St. Benilde in 2019 to focus on her sport when her coach said her performance was not good. 

"Sabi niya, kailangan kong mag-stop kasi yung Olympics, once ka lang magkakaroon ng chance diyan na mag-qualify, makapaglaro, so ibigay mo na lahat, magsakripisyo ka na," she said.

"So ako, kahit masakit kasi gusto ko ring makapagtapos ng pag-aaral, gusto kong magkaroon ng diploma, ginive up ko yun para sa Olympics. Worth it naman," she said.

(He said I had to stop because in the Olympics, you only have one chance to qualify, to play, so give it your all, sacrifice. So for me, even if it hurt because I really want to study, I want to have a diploma, I gave that up for the Olympics. It was worth it.)

With a gold now secured--a first for the Philippines--Diaz was all smiles as she said she's only 2 terms away from graduation.

"Tatapusin ko ito at isa iyon sa mga goal ko after the Olympics," she said.

(I will finish this and it's one of my goals after the Olympics.)