By REY C. LACHICA
Hidilyn Diaz was ecstatic but appeared to be in a hurry during the handover of her P3-million financial reward from Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero for winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo Games.
For good reason.
She wanted to cheer for two boxers – Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial – who had scheduled bouts later in the day.
Romero understood Diaz very well.
“She’s indeed a true athlete that’s why I’m happy to personally hand to her this check. This (check) is not so big but I am hoping her victory would be the start of big things to come for Philippine sports,” said Romero after handing the check to Diaz at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.
The turn over came eight days since the wonder woman from Zamboanga arrived from Tokyo where she enshrined her name in the pantheon of greats.
“Hoping every Olympics may gold medal tayo,” said Romero, who was accompanied by AirAsia executive Erick Arejola.
To which Diaz said: “Naniniwala akong sa kakayahan ng atletang Filipino. Kaya yan!”
Asked what she will do with her swelling cash rewards, Diaz said she will continue with her community service in her home province – and the rest for her future.
“I learned from my experience after the Rio Games so pag-isipan ng maigi,” said Diaz, flashing her winsome smile from time to time.
Not only did Diaz end the country’s long agony – 97 years in all – on July 26, she also did the unthinkable by beating her Chinese rival in a duel worthy of telling many times over.
“That made her victory sweeter and memorable because it was an Olympic record,” added Romero who was part of the PH delegation to the 2012 London Games that saw Diaz appearing in her second Olympic appearance.
Diaz recalled that event vividly.
“Magkasama kami ni Cong. Romero sa opening ceremony,” added Diaz.
A silver medal winner in Rio Games five years ago, Diaz thanked Romero for being a genuine sports patron, saying his generosity will greatly help Filipino athletes in so many ways in their desire to be future heroes and heroines.
Romero pledged to give financial rewards to members of the Team PH who win medals in the Tokyo Games – P3 million for a gold, P2 M for silver, and P1 M for bronze.
“I am praying that we could overcome the health crisis we are facing right now so we could give Hidilyn and other Tokyo heroes a fitting tribute,” added Romero. “The queen deserves it.”