Hidilyn Diaz had to fight her inner demons first before competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan, which was projected to be her swan song of a performance.
But when she entered the Tokyo International Forum on Monday, July 26, all doubts were erased as the 30-year-old Filipina weightlifter held her head high.
And Diaz did not disappoint, making history for Philippine sports as the first Filipino to capture the elusive gold medal in the prestigious event.
Diaz, the 2016 Rio Games silver medalist, came back stronger with a firm resolve and set new Olympic records of lifting 127kgs in the third and last attempt of clean and jerk and a total of 224 kgs.
She was only one point or kilogram higher against Chinese lifter Liao Qiuyun, who tallied an overall 223 points.
“‘Di ako makapaniwala,” said an emotional Diaz, stuttering with her words, as seen on the video from One Sports’ correspondent Gretchen Ho. “Nasurpresa ako na nagawa ko ‘yon. Kakaiba si God.
“Sa totoo lang, kinabahan ako baka ‘di ko magawa pero the whole day, the whole week sinasabi ko na ‘I believe, I believe’ saka prepared ako. Sa lahat ng pinagdaanan ko, prinepare ako ni God to be strong today.”
The Zamboanga native lifter furthered and expressed gratitude to God, team HD (Hidilyn Diaz) — composed of Chinese mentor Kaiwen Gao, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo, psychologist Dr. Karen Trinindad, and sports nutritionist Jeaneth Aro — plus the legions of Filipino supporters around the world.
In setting the Olympic record, Diaz was completely unaware as she entered the zone when the showdown for the gold medal position against Qiuyun began.
“Actually, ‘di ko alam na Olympic record na ‘yong ginagawa ko. ‘Di rin ako makapaniwala na nandoon ‘yong pangalan ko sa Olympic record so I’m really thankful.”
With the gold medal, Diaz solidified herself as one of the Filipino sports heroes — a heroine in her case — becoming the second athlete from the Philippines to win multiple Olympic medals since swimmer Teofilo Yldefonzo bagged bronze in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke in 1928 and 1932.
The victory also marked the 11th medal for the Philippines and the very first gold since the country started participating in 1924.