By Zerylle Mae Lim

Filipina Hidilyn Diaz won the silver medal of the women’s 53kg class in weightlifting with a total of 200kg at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, ending the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought. This is the country’s first medal in weightlifting and first in 20 years since Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won silver in boxing in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Weepy Diaz won silver after failing to win one in the last two Olympics. She made her debut in the 58kg class of the 2008 Beijing Games as a 17-year-old and captivated many with her immense potential. In London, she failed on all her attempts after an impressive start in the take. Diaz dropped down to the lighter class in Rio, where she only had seven other participants to compete with.

“I have tried so hard. I have stumbled many times,” Diaz recalled. “I wanted to quit, but now all of my sacrifices have paid off.”

Hsu Shu-Ching of Taipei won the gold and the bronze went to Yoon Jin Hee of South Korea. Diaz meanwhile, actually failed in 2 of her 3 attempts in the snatch, finally lifting 88kg. The Filipina recovered nicely in the 2nd discipline with a 2nd attempt of 112kg, matching Hsu.

Hidilyn F. Diaz, born on February 20, 1991, hails from Zamboanga and is the fifth among six children of Eduardo and Emelita Diaz. It was her cousin Allen Jayfrus Diaz who had taught her the basics of weightlifting. In 2013, Diaz was hired by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) through the military arm’s Direct Enlistment Program. She was also given an Air Force Specialty Code expertise in recreation in weightlifting. In 2014, she was awarded a promotion from the rank of Airwoman to Airwoman Second Class alongside being a recipient of a Military Merit Medal for organizing PAF events and a Presidential Citation Unit Badge. When Diaz was training for her stint at the 2016 Summer Olympics, she was assigned to PAF Personnel Management Center on a temporary basis. For her triumph at the Olympics, she was given a promotion by the PAF and although extent of the promotion was initially not disclosed, it was later reported that Diaz was promoted to the rank of Airwoman First Class.

Upon her return to the Philippines after the Rio Olympic Games, Diaz was given a hero’s welcome that was hosted by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and graced by her fellow Mindanaoan, our very own President Rodrigo Duterte, who expressed his happiness in the athlete’s victory, “I’m overjoyed. I’d like to congratulate Miss Diaz for her success”. “I was really scared when she was struggling to pull up the weight, but she was able to do it. I almost shouted,” said the President, who had met Diaz during a send-off for the Rio Olympic Games at the Malacanang Palace last July 18. Diaz and fellow Olympian Airman 2nd Class Nestor Colonia were also given plaques for their achievements in Rio and the former had made a replica of her silver medal to be displayed at the PAF Museum.

Diaz’s wishes that her feat would inspire the youth in the Philippines into realizing that success cannot be held back by poverty. In a press conference in Zamboanga City, she said, “I’m here to inspire them. I’m here to give (them) hope in life. Nung una kasi nung bata kami, mahirap kami. I want them to know that everyone, mapamahirap, matanda, bata, lahat tayo pwede mangarap at kung gugustuhin, walang imposible.” (We were poor when I was younger. I want them to know that everyone, the poor, the young, and the old can continue to pursue their dreams because nothing is impossible if you truly want it). She shares to everyone that, with arduous training, maintaining proper nutrition and acquiring the necessary equipment, anyone else can accomplish what she has. She recalled a time when she thought she nearly saw the end of her career after getting her knee injured, which resulted to her missing the cut for the Asian Games. However, she carried on to surpassing this struggle and recuperated from injury. A couple of years following that incident, she became the first Mindanaoan to win an Olympic medal. Her ardent plea to the government of our country to be more supportive towards aspiring athletes materialized just a week after she scored a historic finish in Rio, as the Philippines Sports Commission assured that they are now training athletes who aim to follow Diaz’s footsteps.

The young silver medalist’s efforts were recognized and rewarded when she arrived back in the country and in line with her wishes to turn others’ dreams into reality, Diaz ensured the next generation of Filipino weightlifters of an easier road to success by setting up a scholarship program in Zamboanga City. She also intends to build a weightlifting gym near her house in the same city. For these plans, she thanked the government and her sponsors for their support, but more than the incentives that she had received from them, Diaz stated that she is more than grateful for the opportunity that was presented to her to compete at the world’s biggest sporting stage. Above all, she did not miss out on thanking her fellow countrymen for rooting for her and for their prayers. Diaz said that not only was she able to represent the country in the Summer Games, but she has also proved that the Filipinos can succeed in anything they put their minds and hearts into however tough the competition may be.

(Source: ABS CBN News, Wikipedia)

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