Hidilyn's Gold Win: Why It Means More To Filipinos Than You'd Think
No doubt, your online feeds are full of congratulatory remarks for Hidilyn Diaz, all of which are incredibly well-deserved. The 30-year-old weightlifter has earned her spot in sports history, and it couldn't have come at a more meaningful time. There are more nuances to her triumph than might be obvious, and this is why her gold medal means so much more than a mere historic first. Though we must point out: this is our first. In nearly a century of sportsmanship, no Filipino has yet won the coveted medal—but on 26 July 2021, a Filipina had.
This is perhaps the first aspect of Diaz's win that gives us so much hope: that she is a woman, and a woman is not traditionally seen (at least in the Philippines) in male-dominated sports such as weightlifting. Yet, she's proven not just her talent but has also shown the world (quite literally) her strength.
A Filipino Narrative
Hidilyn Diaz seems to represent a very typically Filipino narrative: she has risen against the odds. An Instagram story of hers from 2019 has now been circulating online wherein she admits to being "hirap na hirap". She needs financial support but is embarrassed to ask for it from private companies. Nevertheless, she resolves to do so in order to help achieve her (and our collective) dream, of winning a gold medal. This seems to be a recurrent theme for many of our Filipino athletes (as well as scientists and artists): there simply isn't much support. Photos of her training with makeshift equipment—water jugs, luggage, and resistance bands—have also circulated online.
In 2019, Diaz's quest to find support had also brought her under attack by online trolls. She's also been red-tagged, harassed, and bullied online. Despite this, she persevered and has spoken out multiple times about her commitment to the Olympic games and winning a gold medal (after her silver medal at Rio in 2016). Now, her perseverance had brought her to the winners' podium, where millions first heard the Lupang Hinirang as it was broadcasted live all over the world. Diaz can be seen singing the words with pride underneath her mask, a triumphant Filipina for all the world to see.
No Longer Defeatist
It seems poignant that Diaz had won against China's Liao Qiuyun by a mere one kilogram. Taking into context the tensions between the two countries, Diaz's victory becomes much more meaningful. Though it would be unfair to place any sort of discrimination on Liao Qiuyun's shoulders (she is, after all, simply another athlete with very similar dreams), Diaz's win is inspiring for a nation of people who have constantly had to insist on protection when faced with maltreatment or bullying. The current administration has constantly upheld a defeatist attitude towards China, yet Diaz's win has translated as concrete proof that Filipinos are not necessarily so.
A Winner, Indeed
The pride is palpable: individuals, groups, and private companies have all come out of the woodwork to praise and thank Hidilyn Diaz. She's earned herself around 53 million pesos worth of incentives—including cash gifts, a Megaworld condominium, and free flights for life from both Philippine Airlines and AirAsia. Though these came to her at much the same time, it's quite obvious that she's earned these through years of sacrifices, hard work, and sportsmanship. She is, indeed, a most deserving winner, one that, through these times of hardships is a shared victory among all our fellow kababayans.