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Gretchen Ho calls on private and public sector to “commit to national athletes”

May 17, 2022
4 min
Ela Robles

With the SEA Games kicking off this week, many are asking: How do we strengthen structural support for our national athletes?

On a recent episode of “Go Hard Girls,” a podcast that highlights the struggles and successes of Filipina athletes, news anchor Gretchen Ho called on the private and public sector to support national athletes:

“Sometimes, our athletes might not win on the first try, they might not win on the second, but they can be like Hidilyn [Diaz] who wins on the fourth,” says Ho. “I hope we stay with them, commit to them, and give them all the support they need—financially, emotionally, mentally.”

Supporting athletes before the medals, not just after

Ho wears many hats—TV host, reporter, and now ambassador of the MVP Sports Foundation. But it’s the intersection of her experiences as an athlete, sports journalist, and woman that drives her to advocate for local talent.  

In the podcast, Ho talks about meeting talented athletes pursuing their passions with only makeshift facilities: “If you go to the provinces, you see volleyball nets being set up in between coconut trees, [people] playing barefoot.”

“As a broadcaster, I want to bring the spotlight to those who don't have [much support]. I try to look for these athletes who don't get as much attention, but who are good, and highlight these stories na kulang sa structural support.”

Ho recounts her interview with powerlifter Joyce Reboton, who competed in the 2021 World Classic Powerlifting Championship.

“[Joyce] is an Asian record holder and she wins medals in the international events, but she can't get support. Sabi niya, ‘Wala naman akong kinikita dito. I'm just doing this kasi I know I can be competitive in it, and I want to bring pride to the country.’ And that's so hard, [especially because] she has a child. Just imagine how many more Hidilyn Diazes and Joyce Rebotons have to find their own way to get some financial support.”

“Even Hidilyn Diaz I would say is an outlier,” adds Ho. “And the way she was able to get the gold after four tries, right? If we had given her that kind of support already at a very young age, then she probably would have more chances to be a multi-gold medalist, I would say.”

Beyond celebrating underdogs

Becoming an MVP Sports Foundation Ambassador has allowed Ho to see how a private institution’s support can help athletes thrive and succeed. 

“They support athletes in terms of coaching, funding for training, in terms of education abroad, of competitions—and having that reach grassroots,” she says. “Passionate sila talaga in helping the athletes.”

MVPSF supported Hidilyn Diaz in the leadup to the Philippines first Olympic gold. In particular, MVPSF helped fund not just Diaz herself, but the creation of her full support team known as “Team HD.” Ho hopes that this can be a blueprint for how other foundations and donors can get involved.

“I hope more private companies will get into this and see the value in supporting our athletes. Provide them with the people they need around them to be as successful as possible, and not just as one-off stories, yung outliers, but really from the bottom up,” she says.”

While an underdog story is inspiring, Ho and “Go Hard Girls” host Ceej Tantengco discuss the dangers of romanticizing their resilience. Instead, they say, we need to recognize and support these talents at the grassroots level.

“Our athletes are expected to be resilient and madiskarte, that they can strive and survive, punching their way up from poverty and a lack of resources,” says Tantengco, who asks: “Pero paano mabibigyan ng tamang suporta ang lahat ng mga atleta para ga-graduate na sila doon?”

Ho answers: “I think it's also very Filipino, our resourcefulness, but if we want to see more Margielyns and we want to continue her streak, definitely we need more skateboarding parks. We need people to respect the sport, strengthen the support for the NSA itself to be able to produce more of these kids who can actually compete in the Olympics.”

“I wish I could change a lot of things within, but I think things are also getting better little by little. We just have to be patient kase real change takes time. If we put in more stakeholders that are really passionate for our athletes and support their welfare, that would be good.”

Go Hard Girls is a PumaPodcast production. Listen to Go Hard Girls on Spotify or your favorite podcast app.

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