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.