Hidilyn Diaz bagged a weightlifting silver in her third Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, ending a medal drought that lasted four Summer Games.
On Tuesday night, Diaz snatched a gold medal on her third Asian Games campaign.
The hard work, sacrifice, and long hours of lifting steel several times heavier than her own weight finally paid off for the 27-year-old pride of Zamboanga City, who again came to the rescue of an embattled Team Philippines the same way she did in Rio.
And the first thing she did after finally leaving the Jakarta International Expo Hall after going through doping procedures past midnight of Tuesday?
“I gobbled it up,” said Diaz, saying she plunged into a plateful of satay, a satisfying meal after almost three months of closely monitoring the food she ate in preparation for the Games.
“I really didn’t sleep easily, I think about three in the morning. And I woke up at around six,” narrated Diaz, a 14-year national lifter, who was 14 when she was spotted in Zamboanga and an innocent 16-year-old when she was tossed to the lions of the sport – so to speak – in Beijing 2008.
Diaz beat Turkmenistan strongwoman Kristina Shermetova by a mere kilo, a calculated victory that was a result of a comprehensive scouting by her coaching staff, led by long time coach Tony Agustin.
Diaz lifted 92 kgs in the snatch and 115 in the clean and jerk for a total of 207, enough to shove Shermetova (206) down to silver. Thailand’s Khambao Surodchana completed the podium with 201 kgs.
For Diaz, all the sacrifices she poured for these Asian Games—like what she did for Rio—reaped her dividends.
“I sacrificed a lot. The pressure was even tremendous because everybody expected me to win,” she said. “But it’s done and I won.
“And the satay really tasted good.”
Weightlifting federation president Monico Puentevella was all praises for Diaz, stressing that the way she had sacrificed a lot for the gold medal here has no equal.
“She’s now a class act, but how she managed to win this one is for the books.
“She poured in so much in training, shut out herself from socials – but at the same time made sure she continued her studies,” Puentevella said.
Diaz’s path to the Asian Games gold medal was a rags-to-riches story of sorts.
“I wound up […] dead last in my first Asian Games. In the second, I was sixth among sixteen participants,” she said.
“But this time around, I pushed myself to the limits and went for the gold.”
The gold also means Diaz reaps a whopping PHP 6 million in total incentives from both government and private sectors. But that’s all a bonus for her.
“The gold medal has sunk in, but the monetary incentives didn’t, immediately,” she said.
The Business Management scholar at College of Saint Benilde said she will invest the money in the stock market and for her future plan of setting up a business of her own.
“I want to be an inspiration to the young and up-and-coming athletes and tell them that we will not be national athletes all our lives,” she said.
“It is very important to save for our future.”
Next up for Diaz is the world championships in November in Turkmenistan.
“I’ll be up for the world, but right now, I’ll have to enjoy this one, besides my coaches told me, ‘There enough time for me to rest from the sacrifices.”