Hidilyn Diaz shall forever be known as the heroic Filipino athlete who captured the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines and instantly brought unbridled happiness to a nation suffering from the ravages of a pandemic.
Her amazing weightlifting feat at the Tokyo Olympics that toppled a reigning world champion is certainly an inspiring tale of determination, discipline, and the overwhelming power of prayer and deep faith in God to overcome adversity and show the world our indomitable Filipino spirit.
When she lifted a record 127 kg in the clean and jerk category to forge ahead of Chinese rival Liao Quiyun who was the reigning champion in the 55-kg division, she lifted an entire country tormented with the lingering pandemic and the frustration of aiming for the Olympic gold that has eluded the Philippines for almost a century.
Hidilyn’s triumph in finally capturing the elusive gold and, at the same time, setting an Olympic record in the 55-kg women’s division certainly showed the heart of a champion. As we Filipinos celebrate her amazing victory, we need to internalize what she accomplished. We need to emulate her and develop a champion’s heart in whatever field we are in.
Needless to say, the heart of a champion never gives up. And it always strives to triumph over adversity, no matter what the obstacles and failures are encountered.
Hidilyn showed she has the heart of a champion despite all the frustrations she had undergone. Hidilyn was just 17 when she was selected as a wildcard entry to the Beijing 2008 Olympics where her dismal performance landed her at 11th place in a field of 12 participants. Her stint at the 2012 London Olympics was even worse. It ended with the official result of “Did not finish” when she failed in all three attempts at the 118 kg Clean and Jerk event.
With agonizing defeats in 2008 and 2012, lesser mortals would probably have given up. But not Hidilyn who showed she was made of sterner stuff. With her tenacity and passion for the sport, she brushed aside thoughts of quitting. She was determined to be victorious. Her past Olympic failures made her push herself even more.
Besides her tenacity, discipline was the key. She decided to drop weight from 58 kg to under 53 kg to improve her chances at the Rio Olympics in 2016. And she had to adopt a healthier lifestyle and a more rigid diet that was essential to achieve proper weight loss. Her efforts to emerge victorious paid off when she won a silver medal in 2016, ending our country’s then 20-year Olympic medal drought.
But her burning desire for the Olympic gold was always there. “Siguro hindi na ako papayag na silver lang. Gusto ko gold na. Tokyo, oo po. Siyempre, pipilitin ko (I guess I won’t settle for just silver. I want the gold. Tokyo, yes. Of course, I’ll push myself),” Hidilyn told reporters right after her 2016 triumph.
She finally realized her ultimate dream in the women’s 55 kg class in the Tokyo Olympics, smashing her personal best to defeat her Chinese opponent. It’s not hard to imagine how she begged God for that one moment in time to really shine in Tokyo.
There’s no doubt that her tenacity and deep faith in the Almighty, plus her devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, have done wonders for her and our collective spirit as a nation. Hidilyn’s terrific Olympic triumph ought to inspire us all in facing life’s challenges especially during these crucial times when the pandemic continues to be unrelenting and unforgiving.
E-mail: [email protected]