HIDILYN DIAZ: Making a long-time dream a reality

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 08, 2016 10:47 AM
HIDILYN DIAZ: Making a long-time dream a reality
Hidilyn Diaz lifted the Philippines to a women's 53kg. weightlifting silver medal finish in Rio Olympics.

Hidilyn Diaz just ended the Philippines’ two-decade medal drought in the Olympics lifting her way to a silver medal finish in the 53Kg. women’s category in Rio.

It is the 25-year-old weightlifter’s third Olympic appearance finally breaking into a podium finish after two unsuccessful attempts in Beijing and London.

The feat quenched the long drought of the Philippines since boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco brought home a silver medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. 

The Zamboanga native was just 17-years old when the Philippine Weightlifting Association fielded her as a wildcard entry in the 58kg. category to become the country’s first female lifter in the Olympics. She was part of the 15-athlete Team PHI that tried their luck in the Beijing Games with boxer Harry Tanamor, taekwondo jins Mary Antoinette Rivero and Tshomlee Go, archer Mark Javier, shooter Eric Ang, tracksters Marestella Torres and Henry Dagmil, swimmers Miguel Molina, Ryan Arabejo, Daniel Coakley, James Walsh and Christel Simms, and divers Shiela Mae Perez and Rexel Ryan Fabriga.       

Too young and inexperienced, Diaz finished 11th in the 12-lifter field but not after setting a then Philippine record of 85kg in snatch, 107 kg. in clean and jerk (192 kg. total) that broke the previous standard she set in winning a bronze medal in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand. The country’s weightlifting body back in 2008 didn’t expect anything from Diaz then but for her to gain exposure.

With an Olympic experience, much hope was pinned on Diaz in the 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane in Laos.  But Diaz who was originally was included in the eight-man weightlifting team had to be scratched out at the last minute after contacting chicken pox a few months after the lifter won two medals in the Asian Youth Championship.

Diaz competed in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China but ended up sixth in the field of 15. Looking to make up for the disappointing outing in the Asiad, Diaz competed in the 2011 Jakarta SEA Games and brought home a silver medal to step a notch higher than her previous finish in 2007.

Her good performance landed her a spot in the 2012 London Olympics where she was given the privilege to become the first Filipina bestowed to march in front of the 11-athlete Team PHI as flagbearer since the Philippines first joined the Olympics in Paris in 1924.

Again, it was a disappointing outing for Diaz as she finished 17th out of the 19 entries and had a ‘did not finish’ mark on her score sheet after failing to lift her 118kg. clean and jerk in three attempts.

Together with swimmers Jessie Khing Lacuna and Jasmine Alkhaldi, tracksters Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera, shooter Paul Brian Rosario, judo’s Tomohiko Hoshina, Daniel Caluag of cycling, archer Rachel Cabral and Mark Javier and boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, Team PHI went home empty handed.

In a local competition the following year, Diaz competed in the 63kg category in the Philippine National Games and lifted 100kg. snatch and 123 clean and jerk  (223kg. total) to break Cecil Atilano’s 2007 Thailand SEA Games mark of 90-105-195. Diaz then duplicated her SEA Games silver medal finish with another one in Naypyidaw, Myanmar edition.

She didn’t see action in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games after a subpar performance that year.

Having difficulty competing in the 58 kg., Diaz went to a lower weight class at 53kg. last year.

The 5-foot-2 lifter at first struggled to maintain her weight but her determination paid off with gold medal in the Asian Championship in Phuket, Thailand with a 96-118-214 lift before winning a bronze medal (96-117-213) in the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston, Texas last November to snatch her third Olympics ticket.

 

Silver that glitters like gold

Since claiming her first international medal back in 2007, Diaz has been imagining herself standing on the Olympic podium – a nine-year dream.

Team PHI sent a 13-athlete delegation to the Rio Olympics with most of the medal hope pinned on boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez.

Diaz was the most experienced of the group with her third Olympics stint.

The country’s campaign started with a dud as debuting female table tennis bet Ian Lariba fell short in her opening match, Lacuna failed to qualify in his swimming heat while Suarez was outpointed by European champion Joseph Cordina of Great Britain in a split decision.

Early Monday morning (Manila time), Diaz and Nestor Colonia (men’s 56kg.) had their tur to compete.

Colonia ended up with a DNF.

Diaz made her long-time dream a reality.

Diaz tallied a total score of 200, scoring 88kg.in the snatch on her second attempt before clearing a 112 kg weight in the clean and jerk also in her second attempt. Diaz tried to lift 117kg. in her last try in the clean and jerk but failed.  

Chinese-Taipei's Hsu Shu-ching took home gold with a total score of 212, while South Korea's Yoon Jin-Hee claimed bronze with a total score of 199. 

Her silver medal is worth is worth P5 million in incentives under the Philippine Incentives Act.

"Bibili ako ng lupa sa side ng bahay namin. Tapos po gagawin kong gym, weightlifting gym. Plano ko po iyon since December pa po. Since wala pa po akong pera. Iyon ang naging motivation ko para kunin ang medal," Diaz revealed in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News' Dyan Castillejo.

For Diaz and the rest of the nation, that silver medal truly glitters like gold.  

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