From wildcard to champion: Hidilyn Diaz in the last 4 Olympics

Delfin Dioquino

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

From wildcard to champion: Hidilyn Diaz in the last 4 Olympics

ELATED. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines celebrates after a lift in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Edgard Garrido/REUTERS

An end of an era looms for weightlifting icon Hidilyn Diaz, but her legacy – built through four straight Olympic appearances – is here to stay

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in two decades, there will be no Hidilyn Diaz on the Philippines’ Olympic roster.

Gunning for a fifth straight Olympic appearance, Diaz lost her Paris Games spot to Elreen Ando following the conclusion of the women’s 59kg qualification in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup in Phuket, Thailand, on Wednesday, April 3.

Unable to improve on her best lift of 224kg that put her in the top 10 of the IWF Olympic Qualification Ranking, the 33-year-old Diaz saw the younger Ando punch her ticket to Paris with a 228kg total in the World Cup.

The two were forced to compete in the same 59kg class after their previous weight categories in the Tokyo Games – Diaz’s 55kg and Ando’s 64kg – got scrapped for the Paris Olympics.

Also, only one athlete per weight category per country will advance to Paris.

With Diaz set to miss the Olympics, let us look back on her journey in the last four editions:

YOUNG. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines competes in the women’s 58kg division of weightlifting competition in the 2018 Beijing Olympics. Yves Herman/Reuters
2008 Beijing Olympics

No stranger to making historic feats for the Philippines, Diaz made one when she first set foot on the Olympic stage.

In the 2008 Beijing Games, Diaz – just 17 years old then – became the first female weightlifter to represent the Philippines in the Olympics as she took part in the women’s 58kg division as a wildcard entry.

Although Diaz finished 10th out of the 12 competitors after recording 85kg in snatch and 107kg in clean and jerk for a total lift of 192kg, it was an experience that set the tone for her storied and inspired weightlifting career.

“I didn’t even really know what the Olympic Games were then, but I quickly realized that I was surrounded by and competing with the best of the best,” Diaz told Olympics.com.

FOCUS. Hidilyn Diaz in action for the Philippines in the 2012 London Olympics. Paul Childs/Action Images
2012 London Olympics

A return trip to the Olympics augured well for Diaz.

Determined to put on a better showing as she served as the Philippines’ flag bearer in the 2012 London Games, Diaz cleared 97kg in the snatch portion of the 58kg category – 12kg more than her best lift in Beijing.

But just when it seemed things were looking up for the Zamboangueña, she endured one of the biggest heartbreaks of her career at 21 years old.

Diaz registered a “did not finish” after three unsuccessful clean and jerk attempts at 118kg and exited the stage a picture of sorrow as she burst into tears, convinced she let the country down.

From wildcard to champion: Hidilyn Diaz in the last 4 Olympics

“I felt like a loser that time. I felt like I was an embarrassment to the Philippines because I did not perform well in London,” Diaz told the For The Love Of The Game podcast in Filipino.

“Good thing there was still another Olympics.”

EMOTIONAL. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines reacts on the winners’ podium in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters
2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics

Third time proved to be the charm for Diaz.

Competing in a lighter 53kg class in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Diaz became the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal as she snagged silver with a total lift of 200kg (88kg in snatch and 112kg in clean and jerk).

Diaz finished behind Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Shu-ching, ending the Philippines’ 20-year Olympic medal drought since boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco bagged silver in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

She also became the first Filipino weightlifter to medal for the country.

“Only a few knew that I could win in the Olympics that time. Then one day, Filipinos woke up and realized someone won,” Diaz told the For The Love Of The Game podcast. “We thought it was impossible but it was possible.”

While time and experience shaped Diaz, then already 25, in her Rio de Janeiro breakthrough, winning the silver also took a little bit of luck as she admitted she only set her eyes on the bronze considering the caliber of her rivals.

At the top of that list was China’s Li Yajun, who appeared on her way to the gold when she topped the snatch portion with an Olympic record 101kg.

Li, however, went home empty-handed as she set the bar too high for herself in the clean and jerk, failing to lift 123kg in her first try and 126kg in her second and third attempts.

Hsu and Diaz both cleared just 112kg for their best clean and jerk lifts.

“That’s all I wanted – a bronze medal. But God gave me the silver medal,” said Diaz.

LIFT. Hidilyn Diaz through the years in the Olympic Games. Olympics/Twitter
2020 Tokyo Olympics

Although Diaz showed how to get the job done following her terrific performance in Rio de Janeiro, ending the Philippines’ near decade-long quest for the elusive Olympic gold still seemed like an improbable task.

Prior to the 2020 Tokyo Games – held in 2021 due to the pandemic – the Philippines’ all-time medal tally stood at 10. Only three of those were silvers.

A formidable foe in the form of China’s Liao Qiuyun, the reigning world champion and world record holder in the 55kg division at the time, also stood in the way of Diaz.

Liao beat Diaz in every event in the lead-up to the Olympics, with the Chinese star ruling the World Weightlifting Championships and Asian Weightlifting Championships before Tokyo.

But Diaz defied the odds once again as she stunned Liao with the help of her Team HD: head coach Gao Kaiwen, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, and sports psychologist Karen Trinidad.

Diaz and Liao both wrapped up the snatch portion with 97kg, setting up a gripping mano a mano between the two finest weightlifters in the 55kg class that put hopeful Filipinos at the edge of their seats.

In the end, it was the fierce Filipina who emerged triumphant, lifting 127kg in clean and jerk for a total of 224kg – both Olympic records.

Liao settled for silver with a 223kg total as she used her third and final clean and jerk attempt at 126kg.

“I never gave up because I knew I’m capable of winning,” said Diaz.

Diaz not only delivered the Philippines’ first and only Olympic gold but also invigorated the campaign of the rest of Filipino contingent in Tokyo.

Inspired by Diaz, boxers Nesthy Petecio (silver), Carlo Paalam (silver), and Eumir Marcial (bronze) also secured podium finishes, resulting in the Philippines’ biggest medal haul in Olympic history.

Must Read

Kwentong kampeon: Ang ginintuang buhat ni Hidilyn Diaz

Kwentong kampeon: Ang ginintuang buhat ni Hidilyn Diaz
Lasting legacy

More than becoming the Philippines’ first Olympic champion, Diaz has grown into a role model for the next generation of Filipino athletes, particularly for future weightlifters who look to follow in her footsteps.

The spotlight Diaz put the sport under, thanks to her international success, has paved the way for a promising batch of Filipino weightlifters.

Just in the last Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, rising stars Ando and Vanessa Sarno, Angeline Colonia, Lovely Inan, Rosalinda Faustino, and John Tabique – all 25 years old and under – won medals.

The Philippines captured a total of seven medals in the 2023 Phnom Penh edition: two golds, four silvers, and one bronze.

In contrast, only Diaz won a weightlifting medal for the country in the 2013 SEA Games, three years before her silver finish in Rio de Janeiro.

The Paris Games also serve proof to the massive contributions Diaz has made for the sport.

If things go accordingly, four Filipino weightlifters may see action in Paris, the most by the country in any edition of the Olympics.

“For me, I don’t feel any pressure in setting an example. I just want to inspire the young generation to get involved in sports, especially in weightlifting,” Diaz told Olympics.com.

An end of an era looms for Diaz, but her legacy is here to stay. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Person, Human, Clothing


Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.