After a drought of 97 years, the Philippines has finally bagged the elusive gold medal in the Olympic Games. Credit goes to Hidilyn Diaz, the weightlifter from Zamboanga City who also broke an Olympic record in her field.
Holding the Games in itself is a feat of sorts, considering the pandemic restrictions, the threat posed by the more virulent Delta variant, and opposition from Japanese people who feared that pushing through with the Games could worsen the COVID situation in their country.
Athletes, however, thrive on challenges. With a combination of full vaccination, regular COVID testing and strict adherence to health safety protocols, athletes forged ahead with their preparations for the Games. Officials of Japan and the International Olympic Committee resisted last-minute efforts to postpone the Summer Games anew after the original deferment last year due to the COVID pandemic. And the Games have proceeded despite several participants catching the coronavirus and dropping out.
Hidilyn’s success story is steeped in perseverance, in dogged determination to attain her goal. Stranded in Malaysia due to pandemic travel restrictions on her way to Peru for an Olympic qualifying event in April last year, Hidilyn set up her own makeshift gym and improvised weights, including large water bottles suspended from bamboo poles, to hone her skills during the one-year postponement of the Games. A car park ramp served as her sprinting ground.
Already a silver medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the 30-year-old Air Force sergeant and business management scholar at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde beat China’s Liao Qiuyun in the 55 kg category in Tokyo on Monday.
The rush from hearing the Philippine national anthem being played at the Olympics should encourage other Filipino athletes to aspire for the gold. Hidilyn Diaz has shown what discipline and determination can do in excelling in sports. With sufficient support for rigorous training, other Filipinos can bring home more Olympic golds.
Manny Pacquiao won global renown in professional boxing. Now Hidilyn can serve as another inspiration for other Filipinos in gaining recognition as world-class athletes.