There’s no denying that our national athlete Hidilyn Diaz is an inspiration to all Filipinas everywhere. After winning silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she competed in the 53 kg women’s weightlifting category, Hidilyn has become a household name. Her Olympic win earned the Philippines its first medal in 20 years, and she was hoping to secure another medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics if not for the games’ postponement due to COVID-19.

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Currently training in Malaysia, Preview caught up with the silver medalist in time for International Women’s Month through a Summit Sandwich Session. Since weightlifting is a sport not typically associated with women, we had to ask the athlete if she encountered any forms of bullying when she got into the sport.

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“Actually, nanay ko mismo ang nagsasabi na huwag ka diyan. Huwag ka sa weightlifting kasi nga sports ng panglalaki yan. Ang weightlifting kasi iba pag magbubuhat ka; malalaglag yung matres mo.” She tells Preview. “So ang sabi niya, huwag ka diyan baka hindi ka mabu[bu]ntis at walang magkakagusto sa'yo. Magiging Amazona ka.”

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But despite her own mother initially disapproving and discouraging her from pursuing her sport, Hidilyn trained on and proved to her parents that her talent can get her far. “Yung weightlifting kasi ito yung sport na pinapa-feel sa akin na ‘belong ako.’ Pinapa-feel sa akin na malakas ako.”

The rigorous training made her body strong, but it wasn’t the figure most girls her age would deem to be “beautiful.” Her journey and drive to become an elite athlete definitely did not spare her from her own insecurities and doubts. “Mas pinili ko pa rin na mag weightlifting kasi nag-eenjoy ako. [So] growing up naging insecure ako. Syempre kinakahiya ko yung muscle ko. Kinakahiya ko yung sports ko,” she admits.

But in 2014, an injury made her reflect on her purpose. “Doon ko na naisip na laos na ko. Doon ko naisip na parang wala na, paano na ito? Ito 'yung buhay ko. Paano kung maaalis na yung weightlifting sa buhay ko?” she shares.

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“Tapos sabi ko mahal ko pala ang weightlifting. So doon ko na-realize na mahal ko pala to. Dapat ko rin i-appreciate 'yung mga muscle ko. Ito 'yung [result] ng mga hardwork na alam mo yung six to nine sessions a week...'yung training tapos ikakahiya ko? So dapat I have to love my sport and myself.”

 

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From beating out her cousins with make-shift weights to finally representing the Philippines and winning at the Olympics, her career as an athlete has earned her numerous scholarships and has helped her support her family financially. She’s currently taking up a Business Management course at De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, so she could have a career after her time as a weightlifter. She even teased her idea of putting up a school or training center for individuals who’d want to get into the same sport.

But no matter where her career takes her, Hidilyn will continue to inspire young girls to pursue their dreams no matter what! Way to go, Hidilyn!

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