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'Lift of Faith': How Hidilyn Diaz bore the hopes of an entire nation

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
'Lift of Faith': How Hidilyn Diaz bore the hopes of an entire nation
Philippines' Hidilyn Diaz competes in the women's 55kg weightlifting competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo International Forum in Tokyo on July 26, 2021.
VINCENZO PINTO / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — In pursuit of an long-coveted Olympic gold medal, Hidilyn Diaz lifted a record total of 224 kg — but she bore more than that on her extraordinarily capable shoulders.

It was the hope of a whole nation, which waited for almost a century for the elusive sports hardware that finally fell into the hands of a woman from Zamboanga City Monday night at the Tokyo International Forum.

More than another line in Diaz's already impressive list of career accolades, it was a feat that will forever be remembered.

With her final lift that set two Olympic records, Diaz also rewrote the history books as she became only the second Filipino Olympian to have won medals in two straight editions of the Games after swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso took two bronzes in the 1928 and 1932 editions of the quadrennial meet.

She also joined Yldefonso as the only Filipino to have won multiple Olympic medals, with all others having only won one.

Perhaps most importantly, though, it was a fitting swan song in what would probably be the Zamboanga native's final Olympic appearance -- having competed in four straight Olympiads since 2008.

It was not an easy road at all for Diaz, who had to buck a second-to-the-last-place finish and a "Did not Finish" tag in her first two apperances in the Olympics.

In true "Never Say Die" fashion, the 30-year-old wasn't fazed and came back in 2016 to win her first Olympic medal in the Women's 53kg event that would eventually set her up for the gold.

Even after Rio, things barely became easier for the Filipina weightlifter — especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global crisis had forced Diaz away from her family for more than a year, having to sacrifice by staying in Malaysia since March 2020.

She also had to hurdle financial struggles, not uncommon for a Filipino athlete, as she called for public help in 2019 to aid her in her quest for gold — a move that was lambasted by some former sports officials.

That wasn't all. She was also named to an "oust-Duterte" matrix crafted by the government the same year.

But despite all the struggles, Diaz came out on top — in a fitting conclusion to her uphill battle, she took the coveted prize.

From a nation currently bearing the weight of varying struggles from the COVID-19 pandemic to poverty woes, Filipinos can take a little bit of inspiration from Diaz's lift of faith.

2021 TOKYO OLYMPICS HIDILYN DIAZ WEIGHTLIFTING
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