MANILA, Philippines -- After bringing home a combined four medals from the Tokyo Olympics, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and boxers Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, and Carlo Paalam have high hopes for the future of their respective sports.
Diaz delivered the Philippines' first-ever Olympic gold when she ruled the women's 55kg division, while both Petecio and Paalam went home with silver medals. Marcial, meanwhile, took the bronze in the loaded men's middleweight division in Tokyo.
For the four athletes, one way to further elevate the sports of weightlifting and boxing is to include it in the athletic programs of the country's universities and colleges.
"Marami po kasing mga boksingero na magagaling, pero gusto din nila mag-aral. So nagdi-divide 'yung decision nila, kung ito ba ay i-pursue ba namin 'tong pag-aaral namin, or itong pagba-boxing," explained Marcial during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum recently.
"Kung sa mga school natin, sa mga university natin, na may boxing, may tournament, tulad ng NCAA, so masasabay nila 'yung kurso nila. At the same time, mapapakita din nila kung may talent sila sa boxing," he added.
Petecio, the first Filipina boxer to win an Olympic medal, noted that very few universities and colleges offer athletic scholarships to boxers.
"Sana po, i-open din po nila 'yung mga ibang university at school po, mag-open din po, sana po, sana po," she said.
For Paalam, having boxing in the collegiate athletic programs will also be a good way to give the amateur boxers the exposure that they need. As it stands, the Olympians pointed out that they only become visible to the general public during multinational, multi-sport events like the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, or the Olympics.
"Sana makapasok sa mga ganyan po, para makilala din po. Kasi hindi kami nae-expose po eh, hindi kami makilala," the soft-spoken Paalam said.
It's a situation that Marcial is only too aware of. A member of the national boxing team since his teenage years, Marcial has won multiple medals at the amateur level, including three SEA Games golds.
But he said he remains virtually anonymous to most people.
"Kahit ilang beses na ako nanalo noong SEA Games, mga world championship, hindi ako kilala ng mga ibang tao," Marcial said. "Hindi nila alam, hindi nila napapanood. Alam nila 'yung pro boxing lang."
"So sana, sa akin, sana mapasok 'yung boxing sa mga NCAA, kasama na din 'yung women's. Para po, ma-inspire din 'yung mga ibang atleta na, mga boksingero na mag-aral, tapos maglaro ng boxing," he added.
Diaz has long advocated for weightlifting's inclusion not just in university programs, but even in the Palarong Pambansa.
Diaz, who competed in weightlifting in the Batang Pinoy, understands why sports administrators are reluctant to include their sports in their athletic programs. Just last year, House Bill 1526 was filed in Congress, which sought to ban minors from participating in competitive full-contact sports.
"Siyempre, 'yun ang concern nila eh, 'yun ang nabasa ko," Diaz said regarding the safety concerns about the sport.
"Pero baka pwedeng magawan ng paraan at mapadami, kasi nga 'yung sports, ang daming naibigay sa atin eh," said Diaz, who noted that she received a scholarship, thanks to her participation in Batang Pinoy.
"Sana mai-consider natin na ipasok, at sana again, magkaroon ang bawat LGU ng project for weightlifting and boxing," Diaz also said. "Nagbigay sa akin ng scholarship at sa Batang Pinoy, 2005, dahil may Batang Pinoy dati, program by PSC and supported by LGU ng Zamboanga, nakalaro ako."
"Sana, hopefully, lahat ng bagong atleta ay magkaroon ng ganoong opportunity."