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Hidilyn Diaz Humble Beginnings to 1st Philippine Olympic Medal in 20 Years

It has been 20 years since the Philippines last celebrated an Olympic medal and a win by Hidilyn Diaz is a celebrated victory without equal for the south east asian country.

The last time the Philippines won a medal was by Onyok Velasco at the 1996 games in Atlanta in boxing.

Teary-eyed Hidilyn Diaz for a well deserved and epic victory for herself and her country:

The Philippines doesn’t have world class sports program, or facility that produce numerous athletes at world class level. What they have are outliers who on their own managed to climb to the highest ranks like Manny Pacquiao and now Hidilyn Diaz.

Hidilyn Diaz doesn’t come from a wealthy family, neither does she live in a progressive city. Her hometown Zamboanga City is down south of the Philippine Archipelago, a city you wouldn’t find in any of the top 15 positive (richest, liveable, etc) rankings in the country.

The video below show the humble beginnings of Hidilyn, rusted metal bars, plates that wiggle, a hot and humid environment. While these conditions are not ideal, Hidilyn was able to channel all these shortcomings into something productive. The wiggling metal plates and environment strengthened her resolve, focus that made winning at the highest level possible:

Another photo showing the plates she has successfully utilized to get where she is now:

Diaz putting her medal where it belongs, in here she says — “It is more beautiful if it has something in it, Thank you Lord, there is really nothing impossible from you!”

Hidilyn Diaz successfully lifted 200kg at the women’s 53kg division in weightlifting, almost four times her body weight.

As Diaz comments — “Ginawa ko yung best para sa country. “Yun lang talaga yung goal, tapos mag medal. Bronze lang talaga yung aim namin ng coach ko.”

In english, she says “I did my best for my country. That’s it really is the goal, then to medal. Bronze really is the aim of the coach and me”.

The weightlifting favorites were Chinese-Taipei’s Hsu Shu-Ching and China’s Li Yajun, which were expected to battle it out for the gold and silver and everyone else would settle for the bronze.

Hsu and Li were able to take an early lead in the snatch round where they scored 101kg and 100kg respectively. At that point Hidilyn felt discouraged as she told her coach — “Nadiscourage ako pero sabi ng coach ko na wala na kaming magagawa. Sa clean and jerk ako bumawi”. In english translation — “I am discouraged but I told my coach we cannot do anything. In clean and jerk I will make it up.” True enough she went ahead scoring 200kg.

Video below shows how Hidilyn Diaz won the Silver medal in the Rio Olympics.

Hidilyn’s Olympic journey started in Beijing in 2008 as a wild card entry by the Philippine Weightlifting Association. At this point she became the first female weightlifter to represent the Philippines in the Olympics, and just the second weightlifter for the country, her coach Ramon Solis was the first. She finished 11th of the 12 competitors in the 58-kg class but being just 17 years and already breaking the Philippine record which she herself set at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games showed a lot of promise. In this Summer Olympics she lifted 85-kg in the snatch and 107-kg in the clean and jerk for a 192-kg total. Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William Ramirez said that Diaz competed for experience and would be a strong contender in future competitions.

4 Years later at the Summer Olympics in London 2012, Diaz once again competed setting a record for Philippine athlete to be able to compete in two consecutive Olympics. She qualified via the 58kg in the Continental and World Qualifying Tournaments, ranking 9th in the event going into the Olympics. She became the flag bearer for the Olympics in the Opening ceremony. The London Olympics had a lot of expectations that she will have a better performance than in Beijing Olympics, unfortunately, she is one of two competitors along with Lina Rivas of Columbia to have a “did not finish” status after failing three times in the Clean and Jerk on 118 kg.

Going into the Summer Olympics in Rio 2016, Diaz decided to go down to the 53 kg weight class instead of the 58 kg she has competed in the past. In her first Olympics she weighed at 56.28 kg which means she is the lightest in her 58 kg class, a disadvantage against the competitors who are closer to the maximum limit. She managed to increase her weight to 57.70 kg but was still performing at the bottom half of the division.

At the 53 kg class she was able to win the gold medal in the 1st Southeast Asian Weightlifting Championship in Bangkok. She went on to place 3rd in the 53 kg division of the IWF World Weightlifting Championship held in Houston, Texas on November 22, 2015 which allowed her to get top spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It was a long journey for Diaz who started the sport at age 11 on humble beginnings. Through years or hard work, determination and perseverance competing in one Olympic tournament to another, she was able to bring the Philippines its first medal in 20 years and the first none-boxing Olympic medal in 80 years for the country.

Congratulations to Hidilyn Diaz for the victory!

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