"Diaz credited God and her spartan training for the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold."
The goal, a gold medal, and the wait lasted 97 years—since 1924 when the Philippines first participated in the world’s premier quadrennial sporting event.
When victory came, at 9:40 p.m. Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, the whole nation of 110 million Filipinos erupted in wild jubilation with such an unbelievable triumph of human strength and spirit against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Hidilyn Francisco Diaz, 30, made history when she won the 55-kg 2020 Olympics competition in Japan, with a record-setting lift of 224 kilos.
Tokyo 2020 was the diminutive 4’-11’ Filipina weightlifter’s fourth and last try at the Olympics.
Diaz won the silver medal in the 53-kg weight division in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, with a score of 220. She also bagged the bronze for third place finish in the 55-k world championships in Pattaya, Thailand in 2019, with 214.
On Monday, Diaz lifted 94, 97, and 99, with the snatch, and 119, 124, and 127 (an Olympic record) in the clean and jerk, for a total weight of 224, an Olympic record.
With two Olympic records Monday night, the Filipina outclassed the reigning world champion, Qiuyun Liao of China, who managed 223 kilos, and Z. Chinshanio of Kazakhastan, who clicked a distant 213 kilos and a third place.
For her last turn, Liao had cleared 126 kilograms, an Olympic record, with barely an effort. To beat Liao, Hinilyn had to do better than her best before—by two kilograms. As one report related it, Hinilyn “pulled the bar to her clavicle, then staggered for a moment as she thrust the barbells into the sky.”
Diaz’s victory over her much-touted Chinese rival was sweet and symbolic. In 2019, Liao won the world championship in 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand where Diaz managed third place.
Manila had been at loggerheads with Beijing over China’s incursions into the West Philippine Sea, erecting fortifications on islands and reefs claimed by the Philippines as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone. The Department of Foreign Affairs had filed more than 100 protest letters for the violations.
Liao competed at the 2019 IWF World Cup in the 55 kg division and won gold medals in all lifts in Fuzhou, China. Later in 2019, she competed at the 2019 Asian Weightlifting Championships, in Ningbo, China, in the 55 kg category, won gold medals in all lifts,] and set a world record in the clean & jerk with a lift of 128 kg.
Diaz’s first Olympic gold for the Philippines and her humbling of the reigning world champion from China lifted a heavy load off the shoulders of millions of Filipinos whose morale and spirits have sunk to unseen depths—with the prolonged economic morass, a raging pandemic that sees no end, and a national governance that seems to have failed people’s once lofty expectations of a better or comfortable life.
President Rodrigo Duterte received the good gold news while having a sumptuous Chinese dinner with relatives and advisers in suburban Greenhills where he proceeded after a tedious two hours and 49 minutes delivering his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Batasan, Quezon City. “He was gladdened by the good news,” said an aide.
But it was Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque who congratulated Hidilyn on behalf of the chief executive. “The Palace congratulates Hidilyn Diaz for bringing pride and glory to the Philippines for winning the country’s first-ever Olympic Gold medal (weightlifting women’s 55kg). Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you. Laban, Pilipinas!” Roque tweeted tersely.
Presidential bashers have demanded an apology from Duterte for a controversial matrix in 2019 that appeared to link Hidilyn Diaz to an apparent ouster attempt against the president. “Wala po, as spokesperson, wala po akong kahit anong binintang kay Hidilyn Diaz,” Roque said in a press briefing, when asked if Malacañang should apologize for tagging Diaz in the alleged ouster plot. Diaz said in 2019 she feared for her life.
For her part, Diaz credited God and her spartan training for the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold. She burst into tears and embraced her coaches after completing the record-breaking lift in Tokyo. She borrowed a Miraculous Medal of Mama Mary from a colleague as she prepared to receive her Olympic gold.
An Air Force airman, Diaz clutched her medal, made a snappy military salute at the Philippine flag as her country’s national anthem was played.
Before Diaz’s Olympian feat, the Philippines had won just 10 Olympic medals -- three silvers and 7 bronzes.
“It’s unbelievable,” she was quoted by a news report as saying, caressing the gold medal hanging on her neck. “I expected to win, but when you hold this already, it’s like, Wow, I never thought this would happen today.”
Hidilyn had been stranded in Malaysia since February 2020 when, because of the pandemic, nations slapped severe restrictions on travel. With a suburban gazebo as her training hub, she had to scrounge around for equipment and facilities to do the rigors of training for the sports events of global sports superstars.
Per Wikipedia, Hidilyn Diaz is the fifth of six children of Eduardo and Emelita Diaz. Her father was a tricycle driver before becoming a farmer and a fisherman. She grew up wanting to be a banker and trying several sports, like basketball and volleyball. Her cousin, Allen Jayfrus Diaz, taught her the basics of weightlifting.
Diaz attended the Universidad de Zamboanga where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science. However, she stopped university schooling as a third year irregular student as she found her degree unsuitable for her. She also claimed that it distracted her training. After her success in the 2016 Olympics, Diaz decided to continue her tertiary education and intended to pursue a degree related to sports in Manila.
In January 2017, Diaz received a scholarship to study business management at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
In 2018, Diaz went on a leave of absence for her schooling as she had focused on Olympic Preparation after winning the Asian Games
In 2020, Diaz re-enrolled into online classes since the Summer Olympics had been postponed to July 2021.
She has the rank of a sergeant in the Philippine Air Force.