Home Sports Hidilyn Diaz and her journey to making Olympic history

Hidilyn Diaz and her journey to making Olympic history


Hidilyn Diaz Paris Olympics

Hidilyn Diaz wraps up her inspiring journey as the Philippines’ first–and only, so far–Olympic gold medalist and one of the country’s most influential athletes. –ART/MARLO CUETO

MANILA, Philippines — Hidilyn Diaz may have kissed a fifth straight Olympics appearance goodbye but her legacy as the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist remains forever.

Diaz won’t be able to shoot for another gold in the 2024 Paris Olympics after she placed seventh in the 59kg class in the 2024 IWF World Cup in Thailand.

Her compatriot Erleen Ando, who lifted a total of 228kg four more than Diaz’s, qualified in their weight class with only one lifter per country advancing.

READ: Hidilyn Diaz’s legacy will remain untainted

For the first time in two decades, the 33-year-old Diaz won’t be in the biggest sporting stage, sputtering in her new weight category after the 55kg division–which she ruled in Tokyo 2020–was scrapped.

Inquirer Sports takes a look at Diaz’s inspiring journey in the past four Olympics.

Wildcard in Beijing

Hidilyn Diaz 2008 beijing olympics weightlifting

Hidilyn Diaz of Philippines competes competes to place 11th in the women’s 58 kg weightlifting event during the 2008 Beijing Olympics on August 11, 2008.  (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE / AFP)

The Zamboanga City native debuted in the Olympics as a wild card participant in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

Diaz became the first Filipino female weightlifter and the sixth overall since Rodrigo del Rosario’s participation in the 1948 London Olympics.

As a 17-year-old, who competed in the Olympic stage, placed 10th out of 12 competitors, lifting a total of 192kg — 85kg in snatch and 107kg in the clean and jerk.

Her Olympic debut was the first step to getting better and continuing to reach greater heights.

DNF at London Olympics

Hidilyn Diaz London Olympics weighlitfing Philippines

Philippine’s Hidilyn Diaz reacts after failing an attempt in the weightlifting women’s 58kg group B event at The Excel Centre in London on July 30, 2012 during the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ (Photo by YURI CORTEZ / AFP)

However, her second consecutive Olympics was heartbreaking in the under 58kg weight class.

Diaz became the first Filipino female weightlifter to compete in two consecutive global sporting event, where she also served as the flagbearer in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

READ: Hidilyn Diaz makes PH proud despite falling short

The Filipino weightlifter showed her improvement by lifting 97 kg in snatch. However, she ended up with an official result of “did not finish” after three unsuccessful lifts of 118kg in clean and jerk. 

Diaz shed tears after the heartbreak, which pushed her harder to make history for the country.

Silver medal breakthrough at Rio de Janeiro

Hidilyn Diaz rio de janeiro olympics weightlifting philippines

Hidilyn Diaz, of the Philipines, wipes away tears after winning the silver medal in the women’s 53kg weightlifting competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

On her third try, Diaz finally made her breakthrough, winning her first medal in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics with a silver medal that shone like gold.

Following a heartbreaker in her previous Olympic stint, Diaz made sure to get the job done in the women’s 53kg category after successfully lifting a total of 200kg — 88kg in snatch and 112kg in the clean and jerk — to end the country’s 20-year medal drought.

Her experience in Brazil taught Diaz, who placed behind Chinese Taipei’s gold medalist Hsu Shu-ching, to believe as she was eyeing a bronze medal.

READ: Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz wins Olympic silver in Rio

The Filipino earned the silver after China’s Li Yajun failed to lift her final attempts in the clean and jerk.

Diaz made history by bringing home the country’s first non-boxing Olympic medal since 1936 and becoming the first Filipino woman athlete to achieve such a feat in the Olympic games. 

Diaz got the recognition and incentives she deserved after the nation treated her like a hero but she remained hungry for more.

Historic Olympic gold in Tokyo

Hidilyn diaz tokyo Olympics gold philippines weightlifting

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Weightlifting – Women’s 55kg – Group A – Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan – July 26, 2021. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines celebrates after a lift. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Diaz immortalized herself after delivering the country’s first-ever gold medal in the Olympics after 97 years

On July 26, 2021, Diaz set a new Olympic weightlifting record, lifting 127kg in clean and jerk for a total of 224kg to edge China’s Liao Qiuyun, who was the reigning world champion and world record holder during that time.

The weightlifting icon overcame adversities including in mental health battles caused by the COVID-19 lockdown ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was staged in 2021.

READ: Hidilyn Diaz wins weightlifting gold in Tokyo Olympics

Diaz credited her success to her ‘Team HD’ headed by coach Gao Kaiwen and her husband and coach Julius Naranjo as she became the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medalist since the country participated.

She continued to receive recognition and incentives that reached millions. She followed up her performance in Tokyo with the gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in 2022, the same year she ruled the World Weightlifting Championships women’s 55kg event in Colombia.

But Diaz was forced to move to the under 59 kg class after her previous categories were not included in the weightlifting program for the 2024 Olympics.

Diaz may not be part of the Olympics this year but she is passing the torch to other Filipino weightlifters like Erleen Ando, Vanessa Sarno and  John Ceniza, who have all booked their spots in the upcoming Olympic games in Paris.

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After her failed Olympic bid, Diaz decided to spend her much-needed Family time with her husband, Julius, but she has not yet said where she’s calling quits.

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