Unlike in other individual sports, there’s no foe across the mat in weightlifting. There are no judges giving scores. It’s just you, your resolve and a set of weights.
Hidilyn Diaz knew that a successful lift in the clean and jerk meant history was hers.
“Can she recover?” said the commentator when Diaz lifted 127 kilos and faltered briefly on one knee, only to scream, “there it is!” when Diaz completed the move. With history in the bag, she broke down in tears and looked to the side to look at her team. An enlisted airwoman, Diaz was in tears as she saluted while the Philippine national anthem was played at the Olympics for the first time since we joined the games in 1924. I like to assume there wasn’t a dry eye among the Filipinos lucky enough to be there.
What a way for Diaz to end her career, winning the gold in her fourth Olympics, a cycle after winning her first silver. She was one of the youngest when she made her debut in Beijing, and much was expected of her in London. When she failed to win a medal, I remember hearing one official saying she was just “too much hype.”
No one’s talking about hype now.
Even after Rio, when she got the country only its third silver medal, things didn’t go smoothly for her. Especially after that bizarre moment when she found herself included in a matrix of destabilizers. She was labeled an ingrate for asking for support, while some targeted her family, and photos of her parents supposedly attending an event of one political party were widely shared.
Her personal life was scrutinized too, and at one point, she was accused of crying for support because she wanted her boyfriend to be compensated by the government for being a part of her team.
Now, the 30-year-old can forget about all that as she ended the country’s drought in the Olympics. No one deserves it more. She has basically dedicated more than half her life training for the national team ever since she made the Beijing Games as a 17-year-old.
The accolades will come, and so too, the financial rewards—P33 million as I write this. Will more come? I sure hope so and Hidilyn deserves every centavo.
By the way, her victory means a little bit of pressure is eased on our other medal hopefuls as they too, seek their own personal history. We were highlighted as the country that won the most medals without getting a gold in the opening ceremony. But by the time the games close, I think we’ll have more than Diaz’s medal to show.