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Stranded Away From Home Due to COVID, She Trained With Water Jugs—Then Won Philippines Its First Ever Olympic Gold

Instagram /@hidilyndiaz

Do you have a minute? Try standing still and looking at the second hand on a watch as you make your way around the dial. It seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Now imagine waiting for something to arrive, not for an hour, not for a day, but for 100 years. An eternity, right?

Now imagine what it must feel like for that century-long wait to finally end. Impressive and something else, of course, and that’s why Hidilyn Diaz, a 30-year-old powerlifter from the Philippines, was over the moon when, with her last dramatic lift of the competition, she won the first gold medal. in the history. their homeland after a 100-year Olympic drought.

The Philippines has been sending teams to the Summer Olympics since 1924. Over the course of subsequent competitions, Filipino athletes have historically earned 10 medals, but gold remains elusive. (Díaz herself won silver at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games).

Training during the pandemic has been difficult, but for Diaz, the challenges he faced were tougher than most.

Stranded by COVID-19 travel restrictions, Díaz was unable to see her family for more than a year. To top it all, she lacked the proper training equipment and was forced to improvise, but she persevered.

Coming as he did from a financially challenged childhood, the lessons Diaz learned early in life about self-reliance and resilience certainly helped her through the ordeal she endured before the games.

A Reddit discussion recounts the many obstacles Diaz had to overcome just to get to Tokyo, and how she rose to the occasion.

“The most surprising thing about her story is that she got stuck in Malaysia during the COVID lockdown. She was only there for an Olympic qualifying event when the government banned travel and ended up trapped there for more than a year. I read that he had to build his own training kit using pitchers of water, “reported a Reddit commenter.

“And despite all that, [she] and his team were organizing webinars at the same time in exchange for donations. They used the funds they raised to help bring basic necessities like groceries to people in the Philippines who were having trouble during the shutdown, ”another enthused.

To win gold, Diaz needed to defeat 2019 world champion Liao Qiuyun of China, who had scored an impressive 223 overall in all three of her lifts. But Diaz proceeded to set a new world record with a clean and jerk of 127 kg (about 280 lbs), bringing his cumulative total to 224 and taking top honors at the event.

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Realizing what he had just accomplished, an ecstatic Diaz was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears flowed freely as he stepped onto the podium and saluted the Philippine flag as the country’s national anthem played.

“We are very proud to see the flag of our country hoisted on the Olympic podium and we are deeply grateful to Hidilyn Diaz for bringing the first gold medal to the Philippines,” said Brendan Flores, president of the National Federation of Philippine American Associations. The Washington Post.

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No matter how proud her country is of her, for Díaz the feeling is more than mutual. She sees her victory as a “golden opportunity” to inspire other promising Filipinos to set their sights high, work hard and never give up.

“I am grateful that God is using me to inspire the entire young generation and the entire Filipino people to continue fighting during this pandemic,” she said in a statement reported by WaPo. “To the entire young generation of the Philippines, please dream well… This is how I started. I dreamed out loud and was finally able to do it. “

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