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Could third time (in this Rio Olympics) be the charm for Hidilyn Diaz
by rick olivares
Looking very unobtrusive at 5’2” with unkempt curly hair and spectacles, it is easy to miss out on Hidilyn Diaz. She’s at the Philippine Olympic Committee offices at the Philsports Complex in Pasig City for the athletes’ briefing prior to their departure this Saturday, July 23, for Rio De Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco spies the diminutive 25-year old weightlifter from Zamboanga City and breaks out into a smile. “Ah, the three-time Olympian.”
Diaz beams back. Despite lacking sleep from late night training, she dutifully went to the briefing. “This is my third time and this is the most that I am excited,” she claims.
Hidilyn was only 17 years of age when she first made the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. “The first time I was there, I was overwhelmed,” she said in the vernacular. “I was too excited and I guess, too young."
The second time around, during the 2012 London Olympics, Diaz left feeling she let down a lot of people. Diaz finished 12th out of 19 competitors in the 97 kilogram category. Yet in the 118 kilogram category, she was unsuccessful after three snatch attempts. She was one of two competitors to come away with a result of “Did Not Finish” in the event.
“During the London Olympics, I was the flag bearer,” related Diaz. “That was such an honor for me. But I was unhappy with the way my competition ended.”
The past four years saw a more determined Diaz attempt to return with the goal of redemption. “Everyone hears athletes say that this is for the country and all that but until you’re there, in an international competition, then you will feel it. Your heart swells with pride.”
“For me, this is my third Olympics and I am even more excited. There are more challenges for me,” she said.”
Life has always been a challenge.
Not gifted with size, Diaz took up weightlifting after she was inspired by a relative who taught the sport. “I want to learn this,” she recalled telling her cousin back in Zamboanga City. “At my height, to accomplish that meant much to me. It helped me overcome my shyness and other insecurities. Being an Olympian gave me even more confidence to face things in life.”
Winning a gold medal in 53 kg. women’s category in the Southeast Asian Weightlifting Championships held in Bangkok from June 25-29, 2015; and a pair of bronzes in the 53-kg snatch and clean and jerk in the 2015 International Weightlifting Federation Championships in Houston Texas last November gave her renewed confidence to get things done.
“I think I will be up to the challenge this time (in Rio),” says Diaz.