Hidilyn Diaz

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Diaz in Philippine Air Force uniform with her Olympic silver medal in 2016

Hidilyn Diaz (born 20 February 1991) is a Filipino weightlifter and airwoman who became the first Filipino Olympic gold medalist after winning the women's 55 kg category for weightlifting at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. A four-time olympian, she was also a silver medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil for the 53 kg category of the sports. She currently holds an Olympic weightlifting record for the women’s 55 kg category.


Early life and education

Hidilyn is the fifth children of Eduardo and Emelita Diaz. Her father used to work as a tricycle driver before becoming a farmer and a fisherman. She dreamed of working in a bank and tried several sports like basketball and volleyball.

She was inspired by the exercise regimens of her male cousins and took up the habit herself. At just eleven years old, she started her weightlifting journey. Her cousin, Allen Jayfrus Diaz, taught her the basics of weightlifting. During these early years, her lifting equipment was made of ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) sticks, cement weights, and jeepney mag wheels.

She was a third year irregular student at Universidad de Zamboanga as a computer science student. However, she stopped attending the university when she found her degree unsuitable for her and that her studies distracted her from training. After winning at the 2016 Olympics, she continued her tertiary education and intended to pursue a degree related to sports in Manila.

In January 2017, she received a scholarship to study business management at De La Salle College of Saint Benilde in Manila. In 2018, she went on a leave of absence to prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which was later postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Career

In 2013, Diaz was recruited into the Philippine Air Force (PAF) throughout its direct enlistment program and was given an Air Force Specialty Code skill in recreation in weightlifting. In 2014, the PAF promoted her from the rank of an airwoman to airwoman second class. After winning the silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the PAF promoted her to the rank of airwoman first class.

Competitive Career Fast Facts

  • She was the first female weightlifter to represent the country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At just 17 years old, she was also the youngest contender in the competition. She ranked 11th among 12 weightlifters after lifting 85 kg in the snatch and 107 kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 192 kg.
  • Diaz competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics which made her the first Filipino weightlifter to compete in two consecutive Olympics. However, she faced a devastating loss at the 2012 London Olympics. Her efforts resulted to a “Did Not Finish” after three failed clean and jerk attempts.
  • In June 2015, she won gold in the inaugural Southeast Asian Weightlifting Championship in Thailand. On 22 November 2015, she won three bronze medals for the clean, jerk, and snatch events in the 53 kg division of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Weightlifting Championship, which gave her a spot for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • As she prepared for her momentous return at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she suffered a major injury and even thought that she could not go back to weightlifting. She won the Philippines’ first Olympic medal in 20 years at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal, in a sport which was typically dominated by men. She won the silver medal in the women’s 53 kg weightlifting category.
  • She took home her first gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia for the women’s 53 kg weightlifting event.
  • Diaz won gold in the women’s weightlifting 55 kg division in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila. It was the first time her parents watched her compete in a weightlifting event live.
  • She won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships .
  • She won the gold medal at the women’s 55 kg event at the Roma 2020 World Cup.
  • She finished fourth in the 55 kg category in the 2020 Asian Weightlifting Championships .
  • Diaz was confronted with financial challenges and being away from her family as she was stranded in Malaysia for training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She trained with broomsticks, bags with water-filled bottles, and resistance bands to train for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Despite these, she brought home the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her record-breaking 127 kg lift in the clean and jerk was her first as she had only maxed out at 125 kilograms. She set an Olympic record by lifting a combined weight of 224 kg to clinch the top spot in the women’s 55 kg class in Tokyo. Diaz’ team included Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, sports psychologist Karen Trinidad and Julius Naranjo as her strength and conditioning coach.

Causes

In 2017, she opened the Hidilyn Diaz Weightlifting Gym in her hometown of Zamboanga City. Aspiring athletes were allowed access to the fully-furnished gym free of charge.

She also uses her platform to share positivity and motivation. She participated in a number of social campaigns including the 2017 BDJ Women’s Summit with the theme “Women Can. Women Will;” the 8th PANAF Youth Congress; and COVID-10 relief food drives in Zamboanga, Cavite, Bulacan, and Metro Manila.


Controversy

In 2019, Diaz was mocked and threatened online after her name was included on a list of people alleged to be plotting to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. The diagram, which was made public, had caused Diaz mental anguish as she feared for her and her family’s life. People in previously-released lists and matrices were targeted by the government and some even ended up dead. She strongly denied her involvement in Malacañang’s expose. She took to Twitter to voice out her disbelief on the allegations which linked her to “Bikoy” webmaster Rodel Jayme. She added that she have a lot of goals in life and for the country to be able to join those kind of things.

After winning the Olympic gold medal, Duterte urged Diaz to “let bygones be bygones” on a Zoom call broadcast on state television. He congratulated Diaz and pledged to reward her with Php 3 million (USD 60,000) out of his own pocket. Senior Duterte aides, however, sought to distance themselves and did not offer any apologies.


References



Citation

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