Her Olympic gold medal around her neck, her left hand clutching flowers and her right hand pointing to the heavens, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, the first ever Filipino to win an Olympic gold medal, said, “Grabe si God. Kakaiba si God.”
Hidilyn literally lifted the hopes and dreams of an entire nation of 110 million people above her shoulders today, July 26, and wrote her name in history.
For the first time in the Olympics, the Philippine national anthem played as a Filipino climbed on the podium for the gold medal at the awarding ceremony. She saluted the Philippine flag as it was slowly raised above China and Kazakhstan's.
The tearful and ecstatic athlete said after her win, “Hindi ako makapaniwala. Na-sorpresa ako na nagawa ko yon. Kakaiba si God. Lahat ng mga prayer warriors ko diyan sa Pilipinas, thank you so much. Lahat ng sumoporta sa akin, thank you so much.”
Hidilyn, 30, competed in the women’s 55-kg Group A division at the Tokyo International Forum. She executed the 94-kg snatch for her first attempt, 97-kg for her second, and fell short for the 99-kg attempt against the record held by Uzbekistan's Muattar Nabieva. She then achieved the 119-kg clean and jerk 123-kg, then 127-kg.
Hidilyn said that when she herself didn’t believe she could do it, other people did. “Kaya nating mga Pilipino,” she said.
She admitted that she was indeed prepared for this Olympics after winning a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but it was a journey made complicated by the pandemic.
“The whole day, the whole week, I said I was prepared. Sa lahat nang pinag daanan ko, God prepapred me to be strong. Thankful ako sa Team HD na ginawa akong malakas.”
Hidilyn said she wasn’t aware that she was setting Olympic records today until she saw the boards. “Grabe si God,” she repeated. “Sa totoo lang ang dami kong pinag-daanan. After winning in the (Rio) Olympics, ang hirap ma sustain…I sacrificed a lot. Hindi ko nakasama ang nanay at tatay ko for months, for years. Tapos nag pandemic tayo. Tapos na stuck kami sa Malaysia, malaking bagay na gina-guide kami ni God. He sent people to help us.”
She related that they trained in a condominium and that her sacrifices were all worth it.
In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe last week, Hidilyn said she had to train outside the Philippines because she had to focus. “After the Rio Olympics, hindi pa ako ganun kaseryoso sa training. Noong 2018, noong nagstart na ang qualifying (games) tapos iyong weight (class) ko is 55 (kilos), although may team na ako noon, etong 2018 nagkaroon ako ng solid team. Yung preparation kasi nung 2018 hindi masyadong maganda ang training ko, hindi masyadong maganda ang result ng competition ko kasi 9th overall ako, pangit. Noong 2019 sabi ng coaches ko I have to stop sa school, then nag training kami outside the Philippines—China, Taiwan, Malaysia yung last.”
Her message to Filipinos after winning the gold: “Kaya nating mga Pilipino. First time natin ito. Akala natin imposible. Akala ko imposible ang Olympics. Pero nandito tayo ngayon. Kahit anong challenges and trials, manalangin tayo kay God. [I’m] proud to be Pinoy.”
Banner photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP