The country has never seen a Filipino hold a gold medal from the Olympics – until Hidilyn Diaz arrived.
Diaz won the Philippines’ first gold medal in nearly 100 years of the country’s participation in the sport after beating 8 other athletes for the category, including world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China.
Hidilyn is the fifth of 6 children of the couple Emelita and Eduardo. Hidilyn was 11 when she became aware of weightlifting because of her relatives.
The Pinay weightlifter tried to lift the ipil-ipil. When he became interested in the game, she practiced with a barbell made of cement.
But it wasn’t just the lack of equipment that became the burden – it was the fact that she was often told that weightlifting was not for women.
“Baka mahulugan ako ng barbel, baka hindi ako mabuntis, kasi magbubuhat ka ta’s wala magkakagusto sayo. Kapag sa probinsiya sinasabi na hanggang sa bahay ka lang dapat dito ka lang. Before noong bata ako, insecure ako, kinakahiya ko pero along the way, minahal ko sarili ko. Di dapat. Kaya ako nandito kasi may rason,” Hidilyn said in a previous interview on ABS-CBN’s “Sports U” program.
Hidilyn persevered and won the Batang Pinoy and other tournaments until she entered the national team.
She helped the family and even educated herself through scholarships, thanks to weightlifting. And after the injury, Hidilyn wanted to give up.
“Nagka-injury, nakakapagod na rin mag-training, burn out pero natural na napapagod, babalik ka doon sa ‘bakit?’ Bakit kailangan ko itong gawin? Bakit kailangan ko mag-training. Dahil may goal ako,” Hidilyn said in the program “The Score” of the former ABS-CBN Sports and Action.
Challenges Hidilyn faced before winning Olympic gold
It was 2007 when Diaz won the bronze medal at the Southeast Asian Games. The following year, she competed in the Beijing Olympics as a wildcard entry and became the first Filipina to compete in weightlifting – but did not take home a medal.
She did not participate in the Olympics in 2012 in London, but she continued to compete in competitions. She won silver at the 2011 and 2013 SEA Games and gold at the Asian Weightlifting Championship in 2015.
And the following year, Diaz became even better known when she took home the silver medal from the Rio Olympics in Brazil. She is the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal and the first Filipino in almost 2 decades.
But that doesn’t mean success in the sport is easy, especially since Diaz’s dream is to win the elusive gold in the Olympics for the Philippines.
In 2019, she called for financial assistance for her training and was asked if sponsorship from a private company was possible because she said she was already struggling.
In the same year, the Palace also implicated her in a matrix of alleged parts of a grand plan to remove President Rodrigo Duterte – even though there was no evidence and no source to say for then -spokesman Salvador Panelo.
Diaz denies this and says her focus is on the Olympics.
Hard work, sacrifice, and determination paved the way for Hidilyn’s success in Tokyo 2020 – a trace on her hands after the victory.