Winning the gold medal is the definitive goal of any Olympic athlete. For 30-year-old Hidilyn Diaz, getting the gold was not the final aspiration but a part of a bigger purpose – that is to inspire all Filipinos to aim high in everything they do.
Filipinos all over the world celebrated Diaz’s achievement when she took home the country’s first-ever gold from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It was a long journey for the Zamboanga native, but it was all worth it. Diaz started lifting weights at the age of 11 using a homemade concrete barbell. Six years later, she went on to represent the country in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games. A year after, she competed in 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, followed by the 2012 London Olympics then in the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 2018, she was present in the Asian Games and then finally, in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Like many people, Diaz experienced physical pain and extreme fatigue from her rigorous training. Not to include that she was away from her family and was staying in a foreign land to train. Notwithstanding, she found ways and did not lose sight of the coveted Olympic gold.
From banker to weightlifter
Not many people know that Diaz dreamed of working in a bank thinking that she would be able to help her family cope with financial struggles.
“When I was a child, I told my mom that I want to work in a bank and count money to lessen her financial worries,” she said.
Growing up poor, Diaz helped her father sell vegetables and fish on the streets while still at school. It was through her cousin that she was introduced to sports at a young age. Her curiosity and will to survive brought her to try out basketball, volleyball, badminton, and eventually, weightlifting.
As an athlete, the rewards and opportunities she received from the government and different sectors and individuals, enabled her to fulfill the childhood dream of helping her parents.
However, her dream of becoming a banker remains – this time as someone who inspires and teaches other people how to manage their money. Diaz wants to help her fellow athletes learn how to save and grow their hard-earned money. “I once made an unwise decision with my money. I want to share what I learned to them,” she remarked.
Her heart is set on inspiring all the Filipinos living or working here and abroad facing their own challenges to achieve their goals.
“There is no quick way to success. Hard work and determination are important. Remember to surround yourself with people who will help you fulfill your dreams,” shared Diaz.
She doesn’t see herself retiring in the foreseeable future. “As long as I’m able and my body still affords the training, I will carry on and do what I love to do.” As Diaz continues to lift weights, she will also continue to lift the spirits of Filipinos who may be losing sight of their goal amid the pandemic.
In her own words, “kayang-kaya ‘yan kabayan”.