The entire country united in jubilation when weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the Philippines its first-ever Gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 97 years into joining the quadrennial meet. The Filipina memorably beat out her Chinese competitor to cement herself in the history books, after successfully setting an Olympic record at the women’s 55kg category with a 127kg clean and jerk.
Now a celebrated national treasure, here are 10 facts you need to know about Hidilyn Diaz.
1. She’s a Pisces.
Born on February 20, 1991 in Zamboanga City, Hidilyn made Olympic history at 30 years old.
2. Her childhood dream was to become a banker.
A far cry from her career now, Hidilyn once mentioned in an interview that, as a child, she wanted to become a banker seeing as she was born into a poor family. "When I was a kid, I told [my mom] I wanted to work in a bank and count money. Then eventually get married and raise a kid. The thought of winning in the Olympics never entered my mind." Now raking up cash, and a lot more at that, by other means, Hidilyn has managed to lift her family out of poverty, and has even bought land titles for herself and her siblings.
3. She’s the first Filipina to win multiple medals at the Olympics.
Counting her silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Hidilyn is now officially the first Filipina to have won multiple medals at the quadrennial meet. She shares the double-medal feat with the late Teofilo Yldefonso, a swimmer who won bronze for the country in 1928 and 1932.
4. Her parents initially did not support her athletic pursuits.
When asked if she was ever bullied for her chosen sport, one typically dominated by men, Hidilyn told Preview that it was her own mother who discouraged her from pursuing weightlifting. “Ang sabi niya, huwag ka diyan baka hindi ka mabu[bu]ntis at walang magkakagusto sa'yo. Magiging Amazona ka,” recalled the athlete. Fortunately, she didn’t let this get in the way of her dreams, and went on, instead, to become one of the country’s most decorated and known weightlifters of all time. “Yung weightlifting kasi ito yung sport na pinapa-feel sa akin na ‘belong ako.’ Pinapa-feel sa akin na malakas ako.”
5. She had to ask for financial aid on social media
As you can probably tell by now, Hidilyn’s path to glory was first marred with difficulties. In June 2019, the weightlifter had to openly ask private companies for financial support in order to fund her Tokyo 2020 journey. “Hirap na hirap na ko,” she wrote on an IG story. Months later, oil company Phoenix Petroleum, in partnership with the Philippine Sports Commission, heard the Filipina’s plea and pledged P2 million to back up Hidilyn’s Olympic plight.
6. She’s poised to receive P35.5 million for her gold medal win.
Hidilyn’s rightfully being showered with rewards for her historic feat, and this involves a hefty sum of prize money as promised by the PSC, along with business tycoons Manny Pangilinan, Ramon Ang, and Mikee Romero. With her hometown of Zamboanga adding P2.5 million to the pot, Hidilyn’s set to make a total of P35.5 million. Not only that, but Megaworld Corp. head Andrew Tan will also present the athlete with a P14 million condo in Eastwood.
7. She’s a member of the Philippine Air Force
Just when you think she couldn’t get anymore impressive, Hidilyn proves us wrong. Aside from being a lauded athlete, she’s also a part of the Philippine Air Force after she enlisted in 2013. Hidiliyn currently holds the title of Airwoman sergeant, which was bestowed on her following her win at the 2018 Asian Games.
8. She ran a COVID-19 relief project in 2020.
A gold medalist with a heart of gold? That's Hidilyn for you! Determined to aid her fellow Zamboanga natives at the onslaught of the pandemic, Hidilyn established a food drive last year, which benefited over 100 families in the city. As per her last update on her Instagram page, the initiative collected a total of P156,213 by May 2020.
9. A children’s book narrating her life was published last year.
In hopes of inspiring young children to dream big, Hidilyn collaborated with Anvil Publishing to release a children’s book titled Ginto’t Pilak, which chronicles her life story. “This is my advocacy, to spread awareness of weightlifting and to find the next athlete who will be better than I ever was,” she wrote on Instagram
10. You can follow her on Instagram at hidilyndiaz.
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