Hidilyn Diaz. That's a name that will be forever etched in Philippine history as the first Filipino to win an Olympic gold medal. There was no stopping the waves upon waves of pride and joy that reverberated worldwide, from the Philippines to all the corners of the planet where there is a Filipino.

Before the competition, she showed her dedication and commitment to the sport. During the competition, she showed strength, courage and confidence. All the while she kept it together, intensely focused on the job at hand.

But after her name was announced as the winner, we bore witness to that special moment. Hidilyn (pronounced HIGH-di-leen) stood on the podium, wearing a mask and placing her hand on her chest. Then the first few bars of the Philippine National Anthem played in the background, heaping praise on its talented athlete who defied all the odds to win gold. 

Hidilyn could barely contain her emotions, her eyes welling up in tears and her head shaking as she tried to keep a lid on the extraordinary mix of feelings she had at the time. It wasn't just about breaking the record or coming first place, this was the moment when she fulfilled her life purpose. All those years of sacrifice had come to this: her dream - and a nation's dream - finally came true.

Philippine social media went berserk and millions of online tributes poured her way. For a country deep in distress because of the pandemic and the ongoing crisis in the West Philippine Sea, Hidilyn is that much-needed ray of hope that lifted everyone's spirits and gave that extra spring in their step when they woke up today - they belonged to a country that has achieved the ultimate recognition in athleticism.

There was something so magical about listening to the Philippine National Anthem played at the Olympics for the first time. It was as if Hidilyn symbolised the country's infinite potential that may be dimmed by the ravages of extreme weather, shaky politics and pandemic-torn economy but will never be extinguished. As Hidilyn said, "Kaya natin 'to!' (We can do this!)

In her media interview straight after stepping off the podium, Hidilyn spoke about how she almost gave up, of all the sacrifices she had made since she first became a professional weightlifter at the age of 17, right through to being stuck in Malaysia away from her family due to the pandemic - all of those tests and yet she got through it all (see the interview below).

Besides thanking her supporters, her 'prayer warriors' as she called them, Hidilyn kept pointing up and credited her faith for her milestone accomplishment. "Grabe si God," she said (God is so great!). 

As one of the Olympics staff tried to pull her away to attend to her official press duties after the win, Hidilyn paused and asked the staffer to give her a moment, she wanted to share a message to all the Filipinos watching her, and it was this: 

“Kaya natin … First time natin ito. Akala natin imposible .. akala ko din imposible, nasa pandemic tayo, imposible ang Olympics … pero nandito tayo ngayon so, kaya natin. Huwag kayong sumuko, kahit anong challenges, kahit anong trials ‘yan, manalangin tayo kay God, mag-ga-guide siya sa atin. Proud to be Pinoy!”

(Translation: We can do this … this is our first time [to win Olympic gold]. We thought it’s impossible. I thought it’s impossible, impossible that the Olympics will go ahead because of the pandemic, but here we are. We can do this. Let’s not give up, whatever challenges or trials come our way, let’s put our faith in God, and He will guide us. Proud to be Pinoy!”

Follow Hidilyn on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hidilynweightlifter

Check out her website and follow her journey: https://hidilyndiazoly.com/

Photo credit: Inquirer.net


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