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Hidilyn Diaz: Her story becomes history

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 30, 2021 6:00 am

Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako ngayon sa Olympics

Di ako makapaniwala na matutuloy ang Olympics

Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ang TeamHD

Di ako makapaniwala na Gold Medalist ako sa Olympics

— Di Ako Makapaniwala 

by Hidilyn Diaz on Instagram

In writing her story with the bold strokes of perseverance, hard work and faith in a Being higher than herself, Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, who arrived to a rousing heroine’s welcome Wednesday, made history for the Philippines.

(Hidylin Diaz enjoyed a sumptuous meal paired with champagne onboard flight PR427 from Narita Airport in Tokyo to Manila Wednesday.)

It was the first Olympic gold for the country in almost 100 years —  since sprinter Jose Nepomuceno competed as a lone Philippine participant in the 1924 Games in Paris. In 1964, boxer Anthony Villanueva bagged the country’s first-ever silver, followed by another boxer, Onyok Velasco, in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia; and Hidilyn herself won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, The Philippines also has had seven bronze Olympic medals through the years.

It took a woman, who once admitted battling prejudice because she chose a sport identified with men, to bring home the gold.

Her golden moment ended a seemingly forever-long gold drought for the Philippines — a longer drought than any Miss Universe dry spell for the country, which puts beauty titleholders on a pedestal in hearts and homes.

This queen didn’t carry a scepter on her calloused hands but a load of iron — beating Chinese Liao Qiuyun with Olympic-record-setting marks to rule weightlifting’s women’s 55kg category. She didn’t falter, stagger or wince.

Instead, she cried — when it was all over. Actually, it wasn’t over — the country’s new place in sports history had just begun.

And for the very first time ever, the Philippine flag took center stage in a trio of winners in the Olympics and the national anthem played for the world to hear.

 For the first time ever, the Philippine flag took center stage after an Olympic competition. (Screen grab from One TV)

Hidilyn has raised the bar — literally — for all Filipinos who may still be staggering on life’s podiums to lift themselves to their full potential.

Her story is history, indeed.

Kung ako lang ito, di ko ito magagawa. Parang impossible. Salamat God sa pagdala ng mga tao, government support, private support, pamilya, kaibigan at prayer warriors para magawa ko ito at maging possible.

Those who stand tallest but bow down in thanksgiving to the Almighty are the world’s mightiest.

“Kung ako lang ito, di ko ito magagawa. Parang impossible. Salamat God sa pagdala ng mga tao, government support, private support, pamilya, kaibigan, at prayer warriors para magawa ko ito at maging possible,” she wrote via Instagram after her historic feat.

She also quoted Scripture: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

A video of Hidilyn right after her astounding victory shows her running to her team backstage and asking one of them to hang a medal on her neck — the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady. Thus, she was wearing two medals when the Philippine flag was raised to  honor her and her country.

 The champ wears two medals close to her heart. (AFP photo)

People of the Year awardee

Hidilyn was one of PeopleAsia’s “People of the Year” awardees in 2019, and even back then, she said in her Instagram account, “I am proud to show to the world what I have been, because I work so hard to achieve this with the help of my team towards Tokyo 2020.”

In an article by Hermes Tunac published in PeopleAsia magazine the year she got her award, Hidilyn recalled that while growing up in the small village of Mampang in Zamboanga City, she used to sell fish and vegetables, clean jeepneys, and carry pails of water to earn money to help her family.

 In her daintiest as one of PeopleAsia’s ‘People of the Year’ in 2019.

“My siblings all looked forward to marrying and having children. While there is nothing wrong with that, it was not my ultimate goal, personally. I want more of what this life has to offer,” she told PeopleAsia in the vernacular.

She had an early start in the sport that was to lift her to greater heights. According to the article, Hidilyn started showing interest in weightlifting at the age of 11, because her cousin, Allen Diaz, was then a regional weightlifting coach.

Those days of fish vending and cleaning jeepneys are definitely over for Hidilyn who said she aspires to inspire the Filipino youth.

In the beginning, she did not have the proper equipment for training, but she persevered. After winning her first few competitions, the aspiring athlete won the confidence of benefactors and received donations in the form of barbells and weights. She was no longer weighed down by lack of equipment, and so she took off.

“It’s true what they say, ‘No pain, no gain.’ In times that I fail, I acknowledge it. I would feel bad, but I don’t use my failure as a reason to give up. Instead, I use it as fuel to better my performance each day,” she told PeopleAsia.

Those days of fish vending and cleaning jeepneys are definitely over for Hidilyn who said she aspires to inspire the Filipino youth.

A report from InterAksyon lists down the much-deserved prizes she has received as of Wednesday:

  • P10 million from Manny V. Pangilinan of PLDT
  • P10 million from Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corp.
  • P3 million from deputy speaker and Rep. Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman Party-list
  • A house and lot in Tagaytay courtesy of Philippine Olympic president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino
  • A P14-million condominium unit in Eastwood City in Quezon City from Megaworld Corp.
  • A house and lot from Century Properties
  • Free plane rides for a lifetime from AirAsia
  • 80,000 free miles per year for life from Philippine Airlines

Hidilyn says she doesn’t intend to store her weightlifting equipment just yet and still plans to compete in regional sports events.

After all, heavy loads bring her victory — and lift her country.