BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Early this week, the social media was on fire when the country got its first-ever Olympic gold medal.
The Golden Girl? Hidilyn Diaz, currently the It Girl for sports and the apple of the nation’s eye.
Hidilyn Francisco Diaz is the daughter of Eduardo Diaz Sr. and Emelita Diaz.
Born on February 20, 1991, Hidilyn is a Filipino weightlifter and airwoman who managed to gaul in the gold medal in the Olympics after winning on her third attempt on the women’s 55-kg weightlifting event of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Monday at the Tokyo International Forum.
Hidilyn finished with a total score 224 kg, lifting 97 in the snatch and 127 in the clean and jerk to outduel China’s Liao Qiuyun for the gold.
Early in her weightlifting career, she competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics, where she was the youngest competitor in the women’s 58-kg category.
In the 2016 Summer Olympics, Diaz won the silver medal in the women’s 53-kg weight division, ending the Philippines’ 20-year Olympic medal drought.
On 26 July 2021, Hidilyn won the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics for women’s weightlifting and set the Olympic record for the 55kg category by lifting a total of 224kg.
She was a bronze medalist in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand and achieved 10th place at the 2006 Asian Games in the 53-kg class.
And while a student of Computer Science at the Universidad de Zamboanga representing her university, she won two golds and one silver in the Asian Youth/Junior Weightlifting Championship held in Jeonju, South Korea.
For Hidilyn, the journey to an Olympic medal started in a humble village in their city, where her cousins inspired the young girl to lift barbells fashioned out of pipes with concrete weights shaped in tin cans.
Twice Diaz tried to win an Olympic medal for the country.
Yesterday, in her third try, the 30 year old airwoman second class of the Philippine Air Force from Barangay Mampang finally succeeded, winning a silver in the 53-kilogram category in weightlifting.
Hidilyn was recruited into the Philippine Air Force (PAF) through the military arm’s Direct Enlistment Program in 2013.
She was initially assigned to the Air Force Special Service Group and was also given an Air Force Specialty Code skill in recreation in weightlifting.
In 2014, she was given a promotion from the rank of Airwoman to Airwoman Second Class.
She was also a recipient of a Military Merit Medal for organizing PAF events and a Presidential Citation Unit Badge.
When she was training for her stint at the 2016 Summer Olympics, she was assigned to PAF Personnel Management Center on a temporary basis.
For her achievement at the Olympics, she was given a promotion by the PAF. The extent of the promotion was initially not disclosed but it was later reported that Diaz was promoted to the rank of Airwoman First Class. Following Diaz’s success in the 2018 Asian Games, she was promoted to Airwoman Sergeant.
On 14 February 2017, Diaz was awarded as the Athlete of the Year of the Philippine Sportswriters Association.
In April 2019, Diaz was surprised to find her name listed among those implicated in an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte.
She initially found the allegation laughable, and numerous government officials came to her defense, saying the inclusion of her name and that of fellow athlete Gretchen Ho was ridiculous, Hidilyn Diaz eventually came to the realization that the inclusion of her name was a threat to her safety and that of her family.
Salvador Panelo, who was presidential spokesperson at the time, later backtracked on the inclusion of Diaz and Ho’s names, saying they were not part of the alleged conspiracy.
Hidilyn is dating Julius Naranjo, a former weightlifter who competed for Guam in international competitions and a professional weightlifting coach, a strength and conditioning coach, and filmmaker.
Their relationship was featured on an episode of GMA Network’s Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho.