PALEMBANG - From her humble beginnings in Cebu, learning the sport from friends, being busted by security guards, having nowhere to skate in her own country, and to finally winning gold, Margielyn Didal has come full circle.
Didal captured the sport's ultimate prize at the 2018 Asian Games, earning the gold medal at the women's street park competitions. It was the fourth gold medal for the Philippines and the country's 17th overall.
"I couldn't have imagined this," she said moments after claiming the top prize at the Jakabaring Sports City Skate Park. "Before, we were being caught by security. We had no skatepark to go to, especially in Cebu."
Didal, 19, got her feet wet in the sport when she met a handful of skaters at the Concave Park in Cebu. When the park closed, it was hard for the kid to continue skating.
"Every day I skated, I had nowhere to go. We were always getting caught by security," she recalled.
Daniel Bautista, her current coach, met her in Cebu and didn't know yet that he had a future gold medalist.
"She came in and she just wanted to skate. She borrowed all the boards, all our friends' boards, and then in a few months, she became better than all the boys," beamed Bautista. "When I met her and when I saw her skating, I knew she was one of a kind and I knew she was going to be amazing at skateboarding."
"She was talented, but for this.... honestly speaking, this is beyond our dreams."
Playful hobbies can turn into lofty ambitions. One thing led to another and Didal found herself growing in the skateboard community. She got sponsors, flew to other countries, competed, and honed her skills. Recently, she went up against the world's best at the Street League Skateboarding in London and X Games Minneapolis earlier this year.
And now, she's the best in Asia.
Skateboarding was added to the Asian Games just two years ago and finally made its debut last Tuesday. The two-day spectacle was an eye-opener to fans all over the world. It opened the beauty and intricacies of skateboarding and broke the stereotype that it wasn't a sport. When Didal executed her Backside 50-50 360 flip out as her fourth trick to get a score of 8.9, the highest trick score in the women's street park event, everyone's eyes were on the 19-year-old Filipina.
And for Didal personally, competing and winning meant a little bit more than personal glory.
"They put skateboarding (in the Asian Games) so this is an opportunity to give a voice to all the skaters especially in the Philippines," she said. "Thank you for all those who supported. To all the athletes, especially to the skateboarders in the Philippines, all this is for you. We'll change the game."
With the Philippine flag draped all over her right after the competition, Didal had a playful parting message.
"Hopefully they don't catch us in the streets anymore," she said with a smile.