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Blood, sweat, and bamboo sticks: How Hidilyn Diaz kept her golden dream alive during the pandemic

By Hannah Mallorca Published Jul 27, 2021 3:50 pm

Pinay weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz’s journey to her historic Olympic gold medal win was filled with blood, sweat, and tears in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, she kept going with unyielding faith. 

Diaz is the first Filipina to raise the country’s flag in four straight Olympic Games. However, what made her preparation different was re-adjusting her training sessions to comply with the health restrictions brought by the pandemic. 

Diaz trained for her weightlifting bout in Malaysia, where she has been training since February 2020. Her Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen opted for the location to improve her ward's focus for the Olympic dream.

COVID-19 witnessed closures of gyms and a lack of access to weightlifting equipment. Despite this, Diaz found ways to move forward with her training.

According to the Pinay weightlifter, her day-to-day Olympic preparations included eating, training, resting, and "repeating but do better tomorrow."

Her training sessions also included incline sprints in a parking lot with Coach Julius Irvin Naranjo.

Diaz also didn’t allow the lack of weightlifting equipment to hinder her Olympics training. One of her DIY barbells included a bamboo stick and two big bottles of water.

One of the weightlifter’s training sessions also included perfecting her Snatch Hang (Below the Knee) technique, which she revealed was one of her weaknesses during that time.  

“There are things that we don’t want to do but if we want to improve or see some progress, we need to address and change the way we usually do,” Diaz said.

But like other human beings, Diaz is no stranger to frustration. She admitted in a heartfelt post that without the help and support of her coaches, she would have given up.

Di ko ma-survive ang lockdown dito sa Malaysia kung wala sila. Baka susuko na lang ako, di naging madali ang taon na ito pero naging medyo magaan ito ng tinulungan at di ako iniwan ng dalawang coaches ko n’un sa alanganin situation,” she added.

The weightlifter then flew to Uzbekistan for the Asian Weightlifting Championships in April 2021, which determined her preliminary standing in the Tokyo Olympics. She remained determined to pursuing her dream of winning a gold medal. 

Finally, everything paid off. Diaz broke the Philippines’ 97-year drought in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics when she captured a gold medal in the women’s 55-kilogram division.

Everything, every sacrifice, finally fell into place.

Banner and thumbnail photos from @hidilyndiaz on Instagram and AFP