Hidilyn Diaz Was Originally Sent to the Olympics as a Wildcard Participant
Hidilyn Diaz has left an indelible mark in Philippine history as the first-ever gold medalist in the Olympics. Apart from that, she also set the current Olympic record in the women's 55-kilogram division, lifting 127kg in her clean-and-jerk event, for a total of 224kg. Though, would you believe that 13 years ago, she had no idea what the Olympics were?
"Nung 2008, when I first played in the Olympics, hindi ko alam kung ano 'yon basta dinala lang ako [doon] as a wildcard," she said in a press conference organized by BDO. "Tapos nakita ko sila Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and mga NBA players, tapos nasabi ko na 'Oh, pang-world class pala ang Olympics."
She was just 17 years old that time, with only a few stints as part of the Philippine national team under her belt. From that moment on, she made a promise to herself that the next time she graces that stage, it won't be just under the "wildcard" category anymore. "Sabi ko talaga sa sarili ko, sa susunod, gusto ko na mag-qualify," she said.
So she did, earning her berth in London 2012, but unfortunately recorded a 'DNF' ('Did Not Finish'). The 30-year-old Zamboanga native still can't recall that episode without feeling shame. "Nalaman ko na ito pala ang pinakamataas na competition sa buong mundo tapos nag-'Did Not Finish' ako? Sabi ko ulit [noon] sa sarili ko, hindi pwede 'to, babawi ako," she shared.
Four years later, in Rio 2016, she earned her first hardware, claiming the silver finish in the podium. While it was a huge leap from her previous showings, she only had eyes for the gold. "Nanalo ako ng silver by 2016. Partida, may injury pa ako [noon] pero nanalo na ko ng silver kaya sabi ko sa sarili ko alam kong kaya kong mag-gold, kaya babalik ulit ako para dito," she said.
And after years of sacrifice, hard work, and nerve-wracking moments, she became the country's first-ever gold medalist after 97 years of waiting. Quite a journey from being a clueless teenager. Hidilyn, however, bared, it wasn't just her "own fight" this time. It was Team HD's as well.
"Basta hindi pala pwedeng ako lang mag-isa, kailangan ko ng kasama. Gigising ka, magttraining ka twice a day, malayo ka sa pamilya, pero kasama ko ang Team HD," she said. "Kung ako ang nag-perform, sila 'yung mind and strategy ng laro."