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Saso, Didal clear vision

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Golfer Yuka Saso and skateboarder Margielyn Didal — two of the SMC-Philippine Sportswriters Association Athletes of the Year feted Tuesday night at the Manila Hotel — will not be resting on their laurels after their 2018 Asian Games victories.

There is still the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to conquer.

Didal, from Cebu City, said she is eyeing no less than an Olympic berth in Japan where skateboarding will be recognized as a medal event for the very first time.

“I want to make it all the way to the Olympics. So now, I’m training hard for that. Hopefully I can clinch enough points to qualify,” Didal said.

“I will just continue to work harder to improve on my rankings and to represent the country in the Olympics.”

The 19-year-old Didal broke ground last year after ruling the skateboarding event in the Asian Games in Indonesia.

Her gold medal win was one of the Philippines’ four-gold medal haul in the quadrennial sporting showpiece in the continent together with Saso (women’s individual golf), Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting) and the Philippine women’s golf team of Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go.

They were the all-woman recipients of the PSA Athletes of the Year award.

Didal’s feat opened gates of opportunities for her and the sport itself in the Philippines with the construction of the country’s first skating park already in the works. She was even named as TIME magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens for 2018 for her contribution in making the sport relevant in the country and in Asia.

“I still could not believe that I am one of the country’s Athletes of the Year. I’m just being me,” she said. “I’m just having fun in skateboarding. But here I am now so I hope to be an inspiration to fellow athletes and teens like me to just have fun.”

Part of her preparation was the first tournament she took part in — the Street League Skateboarding (SLS) World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last month where she made the semi-finals against the world’s best skaters like Brazilian Monica Torres, Haley Wilson of Australia, Candy Jacobs of the Netherlands and Aori Nishimura of Japan.

That impressive SLS showing put her at No. 14 in the world rankings and she could be a cinch to the Summer Games if she keeps that spot longer. Only 20 skaters will make it to the Tokyo Olympics.

Golfer Yuka Saso is also in the middle of her training which she highlighted with a title win in the Champion Philippine Ladies Amateur Open last week at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Forbes Park.

It was a fitting rebound for the 17-year-old Filipino-Japanese after missing the podium of the Youth Olympic Games late last year.

“I’m really focused on my upcoming tournaments as part of the buildup for the SEAG,” said Saso, who is eyeing to replicate her Asiad feat front of Filipino fans this year.

“I just hope to improve and improve. I want to be a better golfer this year,” Saso said.

Advancing to the Olympics is Saso’s top mission especially with the support of the National Golf Association of the Philippines, PSA’s Best National Sports Association.

Saso is set to compete in the upcoming TTC Invitational this March here and the ANA Junior Inspiration this April in USA.

Her teammates Go and Pagdanganan didn’t make it to the Awards Night as they are in the middle of their US collegiate stints with University of Arizona and South Carolina, respectively.

“It’s unfortunate that my teammates weren’t here to share this prestigious award. It’ an honor. This was really special for us but this award will not stop us yet in working hard and improving our game,” Saso said.

Weightlifter Diaz, the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist and 2018 Asian Games gold medal winner, is also training in China.

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