MANILA, Philippines – After 14 years, Olympian Hidilyn Diaz competed once again in her home country.
While Filipino fans were united in cheering for the star weightlifter, Diaz had to conquer something else other than the barbell.
Even when many felt confident that she’d bag her first Southeast Asian Games gold, surprisingly, the Olympic silver medalist Diaz doubted herself.
“I didn’t know how to handle the pressure and the expectations of the people,” an emotional Diaz shared.
“I was nervous because a lot of people were watching. There were times when I doubted myself but you [Filipinos] were all there.”
When she stepped on the stage and held her arm high before her lift, the sizeable crowd broke into loud cheers while waving their Philippine flags. Diaz then knew she could do it: the whole nation was lifting with her.
“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my countrymen,” Diaz, who last competed in the Philippines back in the 2005 SEA Games.
“Thank goodness I was able to do it. I want to thank God and everyone who prayed for me.”
After drawing inspiration from the incredible support she received, the decorated Diaz dominated the women’s 55 kg event with a total lift of 211 kg.
The victory was also special for Diaz because it’s the first time her parents watched her compete live.
“It’s the first time that my mother and father are here. I was also nervous because of that,” admitted the 28-year-old Diaz. “My mom is also anxious when it comes to me competing but I’m happy that I pulled through.”
The Zamboanga native also felt satisfied with her performance.
“Everything paid off. Two months before, I wasn’t ready because the IWF World Championships just ended but I’m thankful that I was able to do it today,” she said.
With the SEA Games gold in the bag, Diaz targets more podium finishes in the Euro Cup and Asian Championships in 2020, both designated Olympic qualifiers.
“I need to work harder and I plan to compete more. I hope I don’t give up,” she added.
But Diaz also hopes for the government’s continuous support and for Filipinos to embrace her sport even more.
“Please support weightlifting,” she said. “I hope more weightlifters will become Olympic medalists someday.” — Rappler.com