News of Hidilyn Diaz’s historic win in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics ignited a sense of long-lost pride that Filipinos have been grasping for in recent years. As a real life Wonder Woman, Hidilyn Diaz represented a strength and confidence that the Philippines didn’t know they had.
Get to know our very first Olympic gold medalist with these fast facts.
She wanted to be a banker
Born from a modest family of eight in Zamboanga, Diaz’s dreams were quite far from being an Olympian. “When I was a kid, I told [my mom] I wanted to work in a bank and count money,” Diaz told ESPN5. “Then eventually get married and raise a kid. The thought of winning in the Olympics never entered my mind.”
She tried other sports like volleyball and basketball, but eventually found her way to weightlifting. In fact, her first barbells were made of plastic pipes and concrete weights.
She was definitely put on the “Oust Duterte” matrix
In 2019, the decorated weightlifter was included in an “Oust Duterte” matrix, or a list of political and media personalities that were apparently in cahoots to overthrow the government. According to former Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the matrix was presented under Duterte’s order. Needless to say, the matrix held no legitimate evidence and caused Diaz to speak out.
“Sana po wag po kayong ganon na idadawit niyo ang pangalan ng isang tao na sobrang busy at sobrang sinasakripisyo ang lahat para sa Pilipinas, ginagawa ang lahat para irepresenta ang Pilipinas sa weightlifting, sa Philippine sports and suddenly ilalagay lang ang pangalan sa isang matrix na walang basehan,” Diaz said in a video posted to her Facebook page.
(Please do not drag the name of someone who is so busy sacrificing everything for the Philippines, doing everything to represent the Philippines in weightlifting, in Philippine sports, and suddenly you just put her name in a baseless matrix.)
She had to train in a backyard in Malaysia for Tokyo 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 forced Diaz to extend her training period in Malaysia. With no flights back home and lockdowns in place, the 30-year-old got creative and trained in her apartment with makeshift barbells made from bamboo sticks and jugs of water.
Eventually, she was taken in by Ahmad Janius Abdullah, the president of the Malaysian Weightlifting Federation (MWF). Diaz was provided proper gym equipment under his wing and was able to train more comfortably in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Tokyo 2020 wasn’t her first Olympics
For those who seem to think Ms. Diaz won gold out of nowhere, they couldn’t be more mistaken. This is actually the athlete’s fourth straight Olympics. In 2008, at just 17 years old, she represented the Philippines in Beijing. She reappeared in the 2012 London Olympics, but earned a crushing “did not finish” result during her bout. Finally, in 2016, she won silver in Rio. She was the first Filipina to do so.
Her journey to the gold was a long one, and it was certainly something she worked hard for. Through years of training and struggle, Hidilyn Diaz successfully came out on top!
With her momentous win, Philippine sports has seen a strong drive for triumph and victory like never before.