The presence of Mikaela “Mikee” Cojuangco-Jaworski, a member of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board, on the day weightlifter Hidylin Diaz achieved the country’s golden Olympic milestone at the Japan International Forum on July 26 was no accident.
“It was a blessing that I was assigned by the IOC to award the medals for that particular event,” Cojuangco recalled, unaware she would be among the handful of Filipino eyewitnesses to Diaz’s historic feat.
Carrying the load of expectations of 110 million compatriots back home, Diaz hoisted the country to the Olympic summit in ruling the women’s 55-kilogram division in record-setting fashion, snapping a 97-year-old jinx since making its debut in the 1924 Paris Summer Games.
It wasn’t the first time that the daughter of former Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco Jr. was at sidelines to watch the mighty marvel from Zamboanga City attain Olympic glory.
“Nanduon din kasi ako sa Rio and have been following Hidy (Diaz’s nickname) since then,” said Cojuangco-Jaworski, an IOC representative to the Philippines since 2013, referring to Diaz’s silver-medal achievement at Rio 2016.
“Nagkakilala na kami duon (We got to know each other there). There became more connections between two Olympic Games,” added the champion equestrian who won a gold medal in the show jumping event at the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
Cojuangco-Jaworksi herself scored an earlier win for the Philippines in being re-elected as an IOC member to a fresh 8-year term during the 138th IOC Congress held last July 21 in Tokyo, two days before the opening of the Games.
She said that even if the IOC had not assigned her to the Olympic weightlifting competition, “there was no way na wala ako duon,” and was so glad that she did.
“It was really overwhelming to see the Philippine flag hoisted at that center spot. To hear the ‘Lupang Hinirang’ (the national anthem) playing and of Filipino voices singing it. Ang sarap ng pakiramdam (The feeling was extremely good),” the IOC official said. “There was really no feeling like it.
“Then nang i-interview na si Hidy and she said na iba talaga si Lord. ’Yun it brought it all together. (Then when Hidy was interviewed and said that the Lord was the difference, it brought it all together.)”
While she was pleased by Diaz’s accomplishment and the 3 boxers — Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Felix Eumir Marcial — who likewise won medals, Cojuangco-Jaworksi reminded everyone not to overlook the other Filipino Olympians.
“It’s unfortunate that the success is only counted by medals not by the growth, not by the ways our athletes represented our country. It is what it is. But we just hope that (the lessons) of this past Olympics can urge those that can influence the lives of younger people to support them and try to encourage them to be the best that they can be,” she stressed.
To sustain the country’s Olympic gains, the IOC official agreed with Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and Philippine Olympic president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino that there should be an analytical and scientific approach in training athletes for high-level international play.
“I would assume there will be an assessment of the NSAs (national sports associations) that participated in the experience of their athletes in the Olympics. The quality of participants, the challenges they went through and how they were overcome,” Cojuangco-Jaworski noted.
“I think that we won't be able to sustain any of the (Olympic) gains if we don’t really track our activities and our progress in a very scientific way. Technology is not only being used only in sports competitions but now also in training as well,” she said. “If we don’t have these things we have to think how to keep up with the rest of the world.”
She said she saw these signs in the performance of Diaz and the boxers.
“I am not a technical expert in any of these sports; I am just a sports fan just like a lot of other people. But I saw the difference in these athletes,” Cojuangco-Jaworski said. “The build of Diaz and our boxers looked different. Hindi na nawawalan ng hininga ’yung mga boxers natin. (Our boxers no longer lost steam).
“Ang sarap ’pag may nanlalaban tayong atleta na pakiramdam mo na puwedeng manalo, na puwedeng umabot sa top. (It’s good to see our athletes and sense that they can win. That they can reach the top).”
“ ’Yun talagang naging kumpleto ’yong saya. Dahil sa performance ng mga athletes natin (That is what made our joy complete (at the Olympics), because of the performance of our athletes,” she concluded.
“And we are really, really looking forward to just everything getting better (for Philippine sports) from here with God’s grace both for God and country.”
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