For bringing home the Philippines’ first Olympic gold
As a young girl, Hidlyn Diaz faced disapproval for her chosen sport of weightlifting from society and family. Twenty years later, her decision to ignore all those disapproving voices has paid off, with her Olympic gold medal in the 55kg division in Tokyo, her second Olympic medal and the country’s first-ever gold.
An entire nation watched with bated breath as Diaz lifted, in one swift motion, 127 kilogrammes in the clean-and-jerk event of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. The Philippines joined her as she cheered and cried. She had earlier lifted 97 kilogrammes in snatch, bringing her to a 254-kilogramme total that qualified for a historic gold. It is the country’s first Olympic gold medal in over a century and the first for a Filipina in the sport. For Diaz, it’s a first in a career that has been obstructed by financial difficulty, defeat and injury.
Even as she won silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she sustained a knee injury that added to the problems taxing her mental health. Despite this, Diaz established the Hidilyn Diaz Weightlifting Gym in her hometown of Zamboanga in 2018.
Midway through training for the pandemic-delayed Tokyo event, she ran out of funding from the government. Diaz knew that this year would be her last shot for an Olympic medal. She trained smarter, dropped her weight category to gain an advantage and drew strength from the muscle that is her heart.
Now with a gold medal around her neck, the weight has been lifted off her shoulders and thrown at a toxic culture of machismo and discrimination.
Did You Know?
Because she used to get jeered at for playing such a traditionally masculine sport, Hidilyn leaned into her femininity even more—making it a point to wear lipstick even when she trained.