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Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who ‘came from nothing,’ wins first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines

Hidilyn Diaz

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    Filipino athlete Hidilyn Diaz brought the Philippines its first-ever Olympic gold medal after winning the women’s 55-kilogram (121-pound) weightlifting competition.   

    What happened: Diaz, a four-time Olympian, set a new Olympic record after lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms (493.8 pounds) on Monday, CBS News reported.

    • The 30-year-old weightlifter beat China’s Liao Qiuyun during her final lift in the clean and jerk by lifting 1 kilogram (2.20 pounds) more than Liao did, according to the Olympics’ official website.
    • Prior to this win, the Philippines had not won any Olympic gold medals despite participating in the Games for 97 years.
    • The Filipino national anthem was played for the first time during the medal ceremony, and Diaz sang along while saluting, Reuters reported.

    Setting new records left and right: The Filipino weightlifter was already breaking records and winning medals even before her recent Olympic win, as stated in ESPN.

    • Diaz won silver during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the Philippines’ first Olympic win in 20 years at the time. She became the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal.
    • She has also won other medals, including silver during the SEA games in 2011 and 2013, bronze during the SEA games in 2007 and gold during the Asian Weightlifting Championship in 2015.

    An unexpected career path: According to ESPN, Diaz aspired to become a banker when she was a child. She lived with her parents and five siblings in Mampang, Zamboanga City.

    • “We were poor back then,” she said. “When I was a kid, I told [my mother] I wanted to work in a bank and count money. Then eventually get married and raise a kid. The thought of winning in the Olympics never entered my mind… My father was a tricycle driver before, then he became a farmer and a fisherman.”
    • Diaz tried sports such as volleyball and basketball before finally deciding on weightlifting, which provided her with scholarships and opportunities to travel abroad.
    • She gave up her dream to become a banker and focused on weightlifting, which eventually helped her bring her family out of poverty: “I was able to buy land for my sibling and for my gym. I was able to help my family and kids who grew up without a home.”

    Inspiring the younger generation: Diaz plans to use her public figure status to inspire other people and potentially find a “promising young talent who can follow a similar career path,” according to ABS-CBN.

    • One way she hopes to inspire is through promoting “Ginto’t Pilak,” a children’s book she created with Eugene Evasco, Noel Ferrer and Tristan Yuvienco.
    • The book “tells the story of how Diaz achieved Olympic success,” emphasizing that she “came from nothing to eventually becoming a silver medalist.”
    • “The legacy I want to leave behind is that I chased my goals,” Diaz said. “Being an athlete doesn’t last forever — you don’t always win, you don’t always lose. In sports, it’s not always miracles. Almost all the time, you have to work hard for it.”

     

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    A post shared by Hidilyn Diaz OLY (@hidilyndiaz)

    After winning a silver medal for the Philippines in 2016, Diaz’s next goal was to become the first Filipino to win Olympic gold. Years later, that dream became a reality, making Diaz both a household name and someone who young Filipinos can look up to.

    Featured Image via Getty

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