Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang will be praying for a breakthrough as the 19-strong Team Philippines looks to make great things happen in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
While he’s busy preparing for Zhang Lipeng at ONE: BATTLEGROUND II, he promises to keep a watchful eye on the national athletes who are now in Japan to try and win the country’s first Olympic gold medal in the quadrennial meet.
He’ll particularly be keeping an eye on 2016 Rio Olympics Silver Medalist for weightlifting Hidilyn Diaz, who he met as a young kid in 2007.
“I’ve always been supportive of Hidilyn Diaz. I saw her when she was just starting, way back in 2007 when we were in one training camp in China for the wild card qualifications. She was so young back then,” Folayang recalled.
“I jumped to professional mixed martial arts, and then I started seeing her in the news, that she’d been winning medals, up to the time where she won a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. I’m really hoping and praying she gets the gold medal in the Olympics.”
Folayang shared how Diaz rose to prominence, starting as a young teenager before emerging as one of the country’s brightest prospects to win the country their first silver medal.
“I’m really impressed by Hidilyn’s rise, mainly because I saw it for myself. I’ve been able to teach her a few things in some ways. I’ve been able to bond with her a bit in China. Of course, we’re in different sports, but we were one team [in China] for the Philippines,” Folayang said.
“I’m so impressed with her improvements. Imagine, from that time to now, she’s still here. I’m so proud of her and I wish her the best.”
The development was a stark one.
From a carefree teenager who finished second-to-last in the 2008 Olympics, Diaz now comes in as one of the strongest candidates in the 55-kg weight class. Folayang attributes this to Diaz’s strong mind.
“My first impression was that she was a bit immature, because she was still young. But I know from the onset that she always had a vision for herself,” Folayang said.
“She knows what she wants to happen, and in that short span she was able to make it happen by giving it all during training and preparation, so I’m just proud of her.”
Now, Folayang can only hope for the best, not just for an old pal but for the rest of the delegation in Japan right now.
“I just want to tell Team Philippines to give everything you can by the guidance of God. You are representing this nation in different sports and we’re praying for a successful run. You have to think of all the hardships that you went through to be there,” Folayang said.
“You have to make the most out of the opportunity. Just think of the legacy that you will be leaving behind if you’re able to get what you truly wish for. I am really praying for you guys. I hope you all take home medals.”
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