Interview with Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski. Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News
JAKARTA—Female athletes have been the standard-bearer for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games here, with all four of the country’s gold medals so far coming from Filipinas.
Hidilyn Diaz added to her legacy by winning the Philippines’ first gold in weightlifting, and golf produced a new set of heroes in Yuka Saso, Lois Kaye Go, and Bianca Pagdanganan, who won gold in the team event with Saso winning the individual gold.
And on Wednesday, skateboarder Margie Didal became an instant sensation with her dominant performance in the women’s street event in Palembang, as the 19-year-old Cebuana produced the country’s fourth gold of the Asiad.
The golf team and Diaz were given a heroes’ welcome when they returned to Manila earlier this week, and hailed as “Golden Girls” by Philippine sports officials and media. Didal, for her part, will be further honored as she was named the country’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremonies in Jakarta.
“I feel like in my time right now, women are empowering the world,” Go would say in a press conference in Manila. “It just means the world to us that we are able to represent not only the Philippines, but also women in general - in sports, in the world, and just in life.”
“It just shows how much women can do, and how they deserve everyone’s respect,” she added.
The Filipinas’ achievements were a source of great pride to Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, the Philippines’ representative to the International Olympic Committee who was a bemedalled athlete herself.
Indeed, before Diaz won the Philippines’ first gold in Jakarta, Cojuangco-Jaworski had been the last Filipina to win a gold medal in the Asian Games, back in Busan, South Korea in 2002, when she won a gold for individual jumping in equestrian atop Rustic Rouge.
“I don't think there are really enough words to express the pride, as a woman, that all our gold medals have come from women athletes,” Cojuangco-Jaworski told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the boxing competition at the Jakarta International Expo.
“Sinasabi natin gender equality so mahirap din naman sabihin eh kasi puro women naman. Medyo may mga nagsasabi na reverse discrimination,” she added with a chuckle.
“But at the same time, there has been really an improvement in the participation ratio of men vs. women, and I'm so grateful that our women athletes have shown that this is really the right way to go.”
Diaz’s triumph in weightlifting was expected, and Didal had been very confident of her chances in skateboarding. But the success of the women’s golf team is one of the pleasant surprises for the Philippines here, and indeed Saso and co. had to mount a remarkable comeback to overcome early leaders China.
Cojuangco-Jaworski can relate to the triumph of the golf team: her own golden moment in 2002 came on the final day of the Asian Games, and was at the expense of “some of the world’s finest riders.”
“Sometimes, when it's unexpected, that's when it happens,” said Cojuangco-Jaworski, who turned heads during the opening ceremonies in Jakarta when she was spotted cheering for the Philippine delegation at the VIP box.
“And I think I know that more than anybody else because it happened to me,” she added.
“It's really a matter of being the best that we can be when it matters most,” she further explained. “And every athlete comes in with the skills that they have worked hard to achieve, and really winning is about being the best on that day.”
As proud as she is of the Filipina athletes, Cojuangco-Jaworski is of course hoping that the male athletes will also come through with gold medals for the country. Three boxers -- Rogen Ladon, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial -- still have a chance to reach the top of the podium in their respective divisions.
“Kawawa naman, hindi natin pinapansin ang boys,” Cojuangco-Jaworski joked.
“But we are proud of all of our athletes, especially yung mga athletes natin who are really taking to heart yung responsibility nila,” she added.
“They try to really represent our country to the best they can be, who take very seriously and who know kung gaano kalaking privilege and opportunity it is to be here, to compete for your country, to do an Asian Games.
“It's not a right, it's a privilege, and it's a huge opportunity, and we have to take that seriously,” Cojuangco-Jaworski stressed.
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