Margielyn Didal's uphill climb to Asian Games gold

Margielyn Didal's uphill climb to Asian Games gold
"Sa streets lang, hinahabol kami ng pulis, mga security pag may nakitang nag-skate." -- 2018 Asian Games gold medalist Margielyn Didal. (Photo from her Instagram @margielyndidal)

PALEMBANG - Filipina skateboarder Margielyn Arda Didal reigned supreme in the women's street competition at the 2018 Asian Games from start to finish.

The 19-year-old Cebuana paced the pack after her second run and never looked back to bag the Philippines' fourth gold medal.

Didal was so dominating that she posted an untouchable top score of 30.4 points for her smashing Asian Games debut.

Japan’s Isa Kaya placed a distant second with 25.0 points from the combined two runs and two top tricks with 25.0 for silver while 12-year-old Nyimas Bunga of Indonesia took the bronze with a tally of 19.8 in this captivating millennial sport making its maiden appearance in the quadrennial, 45-nation sportsfest.

“I am very happy I did my best. Sobra ang saya po, lalung –lalo na sa mga skateboarders natin,” said the gregarious Didal, who  lived up to her billing as the top favorite after her devil-may-care showing at the packed arena.

After her resounding win, Didal revealed the hardships she had to work through just to get some practice back in Cebu.

"Sa streets lang, hinahabol kami ng pulis, mga security pag may nakitang nag-skate," Didal told ABS-CBN News' Dyan Castillejo via video interview.

"Minsan po pag nasa mall, pag nakahawak ka ng board, bawal ka pumasok," she continued. “Gusto ko rin na maipakita na skateboarding is a serious sport but can also be fun as well.”

Didal's mother is a streetfood vendor back in Cebu, while his father is a carpenter. Both her parents were unable to accompany or even witness her historic feat.

With the win however, a lot of opportunities are set to arise for the young skateboarder. 

Didal will receive P6 million in incentives from the government and other groups as a reward for gold medalists in the Asiad, and she plans to use the money to finally bring her family to her next event.

"Kukuhan ko rin sila (parents) ng passport after Asian Games kasi maraming invitations sa skate event. Para makasama sa next event ko, sa Brazil," she bared.

Skateboarding made its debut in this iteration of the quadrennial meet, and will become a medal sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Didal trained in the United States for two months before competing in Indonesia, with nothing more than a dream to erase skateboarding's negative connotation in the country. 

"[Para] sa skate scene sa Pinas, manibago naman yung tingin ng ibang tao sa skateboarding," an emotional Didal bared.

Now a gold medalist, Didal hopes her success leads to better support for the discipline. 

Her golden achievement was the fourth mint courtesy of Pinoy female athletes after weightlifter Hidylin Diaz, golfer Yuka Saso and the PH women’s gold squad, and the first major contribution of the compact national contingent competing in 10 events here to the country’s overall medal tally.     

Philippine Olympic Committee President Ricky Vargas and chairman Bambol Tolentino, who went straight from the airport to the venue,  arrived just in time to witness  the former street kid go  from strength to strength in garnering

 “I am blessed to witness this great event by a young girl, a carpenter’s daughter and former street kid, who did so well.  Because of her hard work and belief in herself she is now where she is,” noted Vargas after witnessing Didal’s impressive run.

“Congratulations Margie. The country is grateful for your efforts and sacrifices ,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez in statement from Manila immediately after learning of the Cebuana’s accomplisthment. “We are arranging a hero’s welcome for  you.

“Your PSC family is behind you all the way. Mabuhay ang atletang Pilipino.”

Also greeting Didal immediately after her victory were deputy chef de mission Manny Cabili  and POC officials Col. Jeff Tamayo and Jonne Go.

A veteran of the prestigious Street League championships in London last May – the first Southeast Asian to be invited to the event – Didal led from start to finish, setting the tone of the lopsided contest with an opening score of 6.7 points, highlighted by a difficult  ”Board Slide” on the railings after taking the higher platform.     

Using a 8Five2 yellow skateboard, she displayed her own version of hang time with an “Ollie” on her second run to go comfortably ahead with 14.4 points to second-running Isa’s 13.3, and seemingly was just getting started.

In the tricks section, where the two best scores out five tries count , Didal went full throttle with another “Board Slide” to net 6.0 in her initial run, took it easy with a 3.7 output in the second, before wrapping the gold up with eye-popping scores of 7.1 and 8.9 points in the third and fourth attempts.

With a flair for the dramatic, her coup de grace was an acrobatic “Backside 50/50, 360-degree Flip Out” that drew oohs and ahhs from the gallery – an astonishing feat considering that it was the first time she did it in a major international competition.

“This was the first time that Margielyn tried that stunt and is the highest score garnered by any skateboarder so far in the street event,”noted Skateboard Association of the Philippines Inc. president Monty Mendigoria.

Didal and the rest of the skateboarding were scheduled to return to Manila on Thursday in what undoubtedly will be a hero's welcome for the country’s latest golden Asian Games sensation. 

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