Joaquin Henson | Philstar.com

TOKYO – There was no doubt in Hidilyn Diaz’s mind that she would win gold in the 55-kilogram women’s weightlifting division at this year’s Olympics. She left her fate to the Lord, endured the pressure of an entire nation waiting for a breakthrough in a 97-year wait for Olympic glory and when the time came to win it all, took the opportunity by writing a triumphant end to a story made in heaven.

It took Diaz four Olympics to ascend the throne and the journey was far from smooth. “In my first Olympics in 2008, I was 17, I didn’t know what to expect, it was like opening a door,” she said. “Then in 2012 I realized I had a chance even though I hadn’t done well. In 2016, I felt like I was finally in class and won the silver. In Tokyo, I was like a Dean’s List when I graduated.

Before landing in Tokyo, she knew the expectations were high for a gold medal but was not fazed. “Accept the ko ang pressure,” she said. “I’m just thinking I can do it, I claim it.” Diaz drew his strength from prayer and, in his own words, kept in touch with God. She did yoga to avoid stress and developed her mental strength in weekly online sessions led by PSC sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad. Diaz also followed a strict diet formulated by sports nutritionist Jeaneth Aro.

In February last year, Diaz hosted a training camp in Kuala Lumpur with Chinese trainer Gao Kaiwen and strength / conditioning trainer Julius Naranjo, a former Guamanian weightlifter with whom she developed a romantic relationship. They rented an Airbnb apartment until a lockdown precipitated by an increase in COVID-19 cases forced the team to move to Malacca in October. Somehow, Diaz managed to overcome the difficulties, training on a makeshift podium in the backyard of a ‘kampung’ house on loan from a sympathetic Malaysian weightlifting official. She believed the gold was hers but had to earn it the hard way.

On the way to Diaz’s ancestry, Chinese frontrunner Liao Qiuyun who lifted 98 kilograms in the snatch and 129 in the clean and jerk for a total of 227 to rule the 55 kilograms division at the World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand in 2019. Diaz finished third in the competition with a total of 214. They met again at the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan last April and once again Liao hit paydirt with a total of 222 while Diaz fell to fourth place with 212. Diaz said she was not at her best, after a 15-month layoff from the competition, but looking back it was a result positive as her performance revealed what she still had to work on in training before the Olympics. Samahang Weightlifting Chairman Ng Pilipinas, Monico Puentevella, said Diaz’s performance had destabilized the opposition by reducing his medal chances in Tokyo.

The Moment of Truth arrived as the culmination of a TV series at the Tokyo International Forum on July 26. Liao and Diaz both lifted 97 snatch. Diaz tried to lift 99 on his third attempt, but couldn’t. Liao was more conservative and less ambitious when she went from 92 to 95 to 97. In the clean and jerk, they went mano-a-mano. Liao went from 118 to 123 and eventually to 126. Diaz propelled from 119 to 124 and on his third try went bankrupt claiming three more kilograms. She picked up the bar, raised it close to her neck, her wrists bent back to carry the load then in a powerful lift, held it one leg forward, one leg back before joining both feet in. a show of force. The elevator was consumed and the gold was hers. The Philippines finally broke a drought lasting nearly a century with their first Olympic gold in 22 appearances since 1924.

Diaz’s story unfolded like a fairy tale. In her Olympic debut, she placed 10th of 12 in the 58 kilogram division. In 2012, Diaz was the country’s flag bearer at the opening parade in London, but his performance on stage was forgettable, failing three times to lift 118 on the clean and jerk. Then a friend suggested going from 58 to 53 to prepare for Rio de Janeiro. It meant serious dieting and it paid off. Diaz lifted a total of 200 kilograms and won the silver medal in 2016. This year, organizers removed the 53 kilogram category and created the 55 category. The change was providential for Diaz as she loved her chances at 55 because she could retain her power without losing so much weight. It was as if the road to gold was paved especially for her.

The fifth of six children, Diaz came from humble beginnings in the city of Zamboanga. His father Eduardo was a tricycle driver before earning a living as a farmer and fisherman. Her mother Emelita was a street vendor. Diaz loved the sport from the start and a cousin introduced her to weightlifting after giving up basketball and volleyball at the age of 11. Due to her squat build, Diaz looked perfect for sports, showing neighborhood boys lifting heavier things like cement blocks and buckets of water. Eventually, Diaz joined competitions and the Boy Scouts noticed his potential. His rise to stardom has been meteoric. She won a bronze medal at the 2007 SEA Games and finished 10th at the 2006 Asian Games. Puentevella trusted Diaz and arranged a wildcard entry to compete in the 2008 Olympics as the youngest weightlifter in the world. its division.

Diaz said his Olympic miracle was the work of God. After winning the gold, she repeatedly muttered prayers of thanks and wore the Our Lady of the Miraculous medal around her neck, closer to her heart than the medal she had won. The awards that decorated the victory are symbolic of a grateful and proud nation – over 40 million pesos, free gasoline and lifetime commercial flights, a vacation home in a resort, a condo unit and more. Again. Diaz is living proof that dreams can come true with dedication, persistence, hard work, and faith.

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