At 8, Hidilyn Diaz carried heavy water containers in both hands

A silver in Rio. A gold in Tokyo. Olympics weightlifting gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz has finally fulfilled her dream, says her mother, Emelita.

She trod a rather rough road to get there, not just in her training. Her vlogs portray a humble Zamboangueña lass from the coastal village of Mampang in the southern Philippines. (READ: Olympic obstacles all worth it as Hidilyn Diaz makes PH history with gold)

But Diaz 30, has been a model of diligence and discipline as an athlete, says her father Eduardo, a tricycle driver, fisherman, farmer, and now a caretaker of three pigs for the family’s livelihood. In most photographs at home, she stands straight and cool.

Diaz is bound to get a hero’s welcome after winning a historic championship in weightlifting in the Women’s Division at the Tokyo Olympics. After all, her first coaches, who contributed to her professional growth and development as a world-class athlete, are still based in her home island: Catalino Diaz, Jr., a cousin who is now based in Davao City; Zamboanga City Councilor Elbert Atilano, and Antonio Agustin.

“We were all rejoicing when we first saw it on TV,” her mother, 58-year-old Emelita, said in Chavacano, referring to a live coverage on social media.

The mother struggled to convey her emotions in words when she spoke with Rappler, half-conscious that a group of reporters were also waiting outside her home.

“Ta salta salta gat kami anoche, kay bien alegre, y llurando pa,” Emelita said. (We were jumping up and down last night because we were very happy, and we were crying.)

“This was her dream ever since. She has been eyeing the Olympics gold medal since she was young,” Hidilyn’s mother said.

Diaz, whom her parents and family members call Hidie, spent her younger years carrying water gallons from a well that was about 70 meters away from their home. Since water supply was not yet accessible to the family’s house, residents in that sitio in Mampang village had to fetch water from this artesian well. 

She used to carry water containers in both hands, each weighing five gallons, back and forth. She was eight years old then, a grader at the public Mampang Elementary School.

She loves the family, her tearful yet proud mother says.

Diaz finished her secondary education at the Universidad de Zamboanga Technical High School, but did not complete her college education – she was pursuing a BS Computer Science degree – due to her weightlifting preparations. 

Later, she enrolled at De La Salle College of St. Benilde and took up a BS Management course, attending classes online until her preparations for the Olympics. She intends to get the degree.

Winning a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics motivated Hidilyn to set her eyes and go for the gold, her mother says. –

Frencie Carreon

Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.