After living for nearly two years like a person in exile, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz is going back home like a prom queen.
The 30-year-old-Diaz, who trained since 2019 last year while in quarantine in Malaysia, just gave her country a precious gift in the time of the pandemic—an Olympic gold medal that came after nearly a century.
That single, record-breaking 127-kg lift represented tons of heartaches, sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears from one Olympic edition after another, starting in the 2008 when she finished second to the last among competitors in the Beijing Olympics.
She made it again in the 2012 London Olympics but could only log a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the scorecards. In the next one in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Diaz gave her country something to crow about—a silver medal. And this time in Tokyo, she made sure it was a jubilation for a country in the midst of battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her mother, Emelita, had her share of sacrifices for not seeing her daughter in a long while. She could only express a short post in her Facebook page “Congrats anak ko. I miss you so much.”
Diaz’s golden performance has inspired government sports officials to continue programs to find more “Hidilyns” in the future.
National Sports Association officials, especially those who are looking to join in future Olympics, are motivated more than ever to develop more quality athletes that will someday make the country proud.
Here’s what they have to say:
Ramon Fernandez, PSC Commissioner
“In behalf of a grateful and appreciative nation amidst the crippling pandemic that has brought the nation to its knees- allow me to congratulate a true Filipino, the newest sporting idol this nation will forever remember in the annals of its sports hall of fame, Hidilyn Diaz.
Fittingly and ironically, the first golden performance by a Filipino athlete ever, came in the sport of weightlifting, as if to say that a single athlete lifted the weight of a whole nation, though besieged with all the despair, frustration, hopelessness and sorrow, displayed strong determination, fortitude and resilience.
That is the true Filipino! That is the true brave and valiant Filipino athlete! Mabuhay ka, Hidilyn! Mabuhay ang Atletang Pilipino!
Wharton Chan, secretary-general of Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas
With our first GOLD, it opened all the doors for Filipinos that we are capable of being world class. Because of the pandemic, this will surely be our centennial success, certainly a milestone for this archipelago.
A woman worthy of becoming a modern-day hero, just listening to our national anthem and our Philippine Flag raised gave me goosebumps. A historical day for the Philippines, a victory for the whole nation.
Charles Raymond Maxey, PSC Commissioner
We at the Philippine Sports Commission joins the entire nation in celebrating Hidilyn’s historic Olympic triumph. She had proven once again that yes Filipino athletes can perform at a very high level.
Winning the Olympic gold is every Filipino’s dream, not just of the athletes. We are so proud of her. I had tears in my eyes seeing her perform and winning the elusive gold.
We just have to continue the grassroots program thru the NSA. We have to invest in looking for talents who will follow the footsteps or Hidilyn and in other sports.
Karen Tanchanco-Caballero, president of Philippine Amateur Sepak Takraw Association
She has not just made a giant leap and changed the landscape of PH sports — but most certainly paved a big way for women in sports advocacy as well.
Learning from her journey, sports agencies would now have an all improved Olympic roadmap and support that’s more strategic and long-term, technically and financially. Also, Public and private funding certainly played significant part to our athletes’ success. And should be further encouraged. After all, it takes an entire nation to produce an Olympian.
Richard Lim, president of Karate Pilipinas
Really happy for her and all the sacrifices that she have invested in lifting the Philippines for its first Olympic Gold Medal.
I think athletes and the NSA should work hand in hand so they can meet the needs and wants of the athletes to attain the ultimate dream providing it has to be justified with the right training program, qualified coaches and government and private support:
Ed Picson, secretary general of Alliance of Boxing Associations of the Philippines
Like all Filipinos, we are ecstatic over Hidilyn’s historic achievement. She is a good friend to boxing and I am hopeful her valiant efforts and winning attitude will rub off on all athletes still in contention in Tokyo. Mabuhay ka, Hidi!
Pearl Managuelod, secretary-general of Muaythai Association of the Philippines
We are all very happy of course that Hidilyn won the first ever gold. This is historic in so many ways: being a woman, being the first, setting an Olympic record, and showing the true meaning of a champion. Dami nya pinagdaan but she was relentless in her pursuit of her dreams. We are all motivated and inspired by this. And tama si Hidilyn, Walang impossible sa Pilipino.
Kaya natin tumapat and manalo sa world stage. I hope this is a wake-up call to unite the stakeholders in fully supporting our athletes in every possible way. Let us stick to our promise to be athlete-centered in all programs. Ang Panalo nila ay panalo ng bayan.
Sobrang inspired Ang Team Bagsik (Philippine Muaythai team) ngayon. They are raring to go in the world championships in December.
Paolo Tancontian, secretary-general of Pilipinas Sambo Federation
Lahat ay masaya sa pagka panalo ni Hidiyn. History ito para sa Pilipinas. As part of the sports community, we are very proud of her achievement. Nakita natin ang sacrifices na inalay nya just to secure the Olympic Gold medal for our country. Inangat nya ang bandera ng mga Filipino athletes and larangan ng sports sa bansa. We pray na sana madagdagan pa yan sa coming days from our other athletes.
As an NSA official, isa itong example na kaya ng Pilipino na makipantay at mag-excel basta mabigyan ng tamang suporta ang atleta and coaches ng bawat NSA.
We will really step up with our own athletes’ training programs and exposure lalo na sa important international events.
Proud din kami because she is from the far South and matindi ang pagsubok na pinagdaanan ni Hidilyn bago nya nakuha ang pinakaunang gintong medalya para sa bayan. Definitely malaki ang impact ng achievement ni Hidilyn di lang sa weightlifting pati na rin sa individual, contact and team sports