The incredible strength of Hidilyn Diaz
(The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2016 - 12:00am

Hidilyn Diaz is quickly becoming a household name in the Philippines as she ended the 20-year Philippine Olympic Medal drought after winning silver in the women’s 53kg weightlifting competition.??

Behind her great feat is a story of incredible strength. Hidilyn was born on February 20, 1991 to Eduardo and Emelita Diaz in Zamboanga. At just 11 years old, she had to walk 50 meters to draw water from the community water pump and walk home lifting two big buckets of water whenever her big family needed it. That built up her strength. ??

Soon, she became curious about weightlifting as she watched her cousin Allen Jayfrus Diaz lift weights at a gym. He taught her the basics. Even from such an early age, she already showed great potential and remarkable strength.??

The same strength that lifted a total of 200 kilos, 88 in the snatch and 112 in the clean and jerk, to place silver at the Rio Olympics.??Between her early years and her Olympic medal was plenty of training, discipline, and sacrifice. 

Unlike her first two Olympics, Hidilyn went to Rio prepared not only with better training but with self-confidence, too.  She was quick to admit that she didn’t have as much faith in herself in the previous Olympics.??

Olympic powerlifting is great for overall power and strength development. “For the snatch, the lifter takes the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in a single motion. It’s one of the most explosive and athletic movements in all of sports,” writes Jim Schmitz, head coach of Team USA (’80, ’88, ’92) for Muscle & Fitness. “Looks can be deceiving, though; the snatch is a finesse lift. When executed perfectly, heavy weight feels light,” he adds. ??

On the other hand, for the clean and jerk: “This lift starts with the barbell on the floor and sees the lifter take it overhead in two separate motions, cleaning it to the shoulders, pausing, and then jerking (or thrusting) it overhead to a full lockout,” coach Schmitz explains. “The clean and jerk is probably the single best lift for developing strength and power, as it requires a big pull for the clean, a big front squat to rise out of the squat position, and a tremendous effort to complete the jerk with a heavy weight,” he concludes.

??Standing at 4’11 and weighing in at 53 kg, Hidilyn was able to snatch 1.66 times her weight and clean and jerk over double her bodyweight. That’s a feat.

“I would have been grateful with a bronze medal because that’s what we were targeting. Masaya na sana ako sa bronze medal, but God gave me the silver,” Hidilyn happily told media after the win.

Her first attempt at 88 kilos in the snatch and then in her last at 91 kilos were unsuccessful. But she opened up with a good lift of 111 at clean and jerk and then at 112. She failed in her last attempt at 117 kilos, but by that time was already assured of the bronze.

China’s Li Yajun, who set a new Olympic record of 101 kilos in the snatch, was the favorite for the gold. She could have won the gold if she was not too keen on going for an Olympic record by trying to lift 123 or 126 kilos. She did not complete a lift in the snatch and jerk, failing at 123 kilos once and then twice at 126 kilos. The three failed attempts caused her loss.

Taipei’s Hsu Shu-Ching eventually won the gold with a total lift of 212 (100 in the snatch and 112 in the clean and jerk). South Korea’s Yoon Jin Hee won the bronze.

I watched Hidilyn compete and her calmness all throughout was as admirable as her strength. She was composed and lifted with ease and solid confidence.

For the first time in 20 years in the Olympics, the Philippine flag was raised again during an awarding ceremony, for which an entire nation will forever be proud and grateful.

She hinted at Rio being her last Olympics before this landmark win, Hidilyn happily announced upon her arrival in the Philippines, however, that she will train to represent the country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. And this time, she will aim for gold.

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