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Athlete Went From Training In Rural Melaka To Bagging Philippines' 1st Ever Gold Medal

Hidilyn Diaz, the 30-year-old daughter of a tricycle driver, was stuck battling gym closures and lack of access to training equipment while living in Malaysia before the Olympic Games.

Cover image via AFP/Utusan Malaysia & Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

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Since the Philippines first joined the Olympics in 1924, they have never bagged a gold medal.

It all changed after Hidilyn Diaz won first place in this year's Women's 55kg Weightlifting event.

AFP reported that on Monday, 26 July, Diaz broke the world record, previously set by Liao Qiuyun from China, with a 97kg snatch and a flawless series of 119kg, 124kg, and 127kg in her three clean and jerk attempts.

After her big win, she told reporters, "Yes I will eat a lot tonight."

"I mean I've been sacrificing my food, and this is the time to celebrate together with the people who are behind me. So I'm really thankful I can eat now, yes," she added.

Prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Diaz had been locked down in Malaysia for almost two years.

She initially travelled to Malaysia to focus on her training, but when COVID-19 restrictions came, she was forced to stay.

The athlete landed in Malaysia just weeks before the first Movement Control Order was enforced throughout the country.

During that time, Diaz struggled with gym closures, lack of access to weightlifting equipment, and the uncertainty of whether the Games would be held at all, reported AFP.

For months, Diaz and her team were stuck in an apartment complex in Kuala Lumpur where they had to be careful not to crack the tiled floor while training with weights.

In October last year, she and her team relocated to a rural village in Jasin, Melaka to live in a house owned by a Malaysian weightlifting official.

Diaz began using a nearby gym, but restrictions were tightened again. This forced her to settle and train in an open-air carport at the Melaka home while dealing with hot Malaysian weather.

All her efforts did not go to waste as she can now return home with a shiny gold medal

The 30-year-old daughter of a tricycle driver in a poor village near Zamboanga said that she has not seen her family since December 2019.

"I'm looking forward to enjoy life because I have been in Malaysia for, I don't know, almost two years, so I'm really thankful I can go home now and celebrate with my family and the people who support me," she said to AFP after being presented with her gold medal.

"I don't know if I'm a national hero, but I'm thankful that God used me to inspire all the young generation and all the Philippines people to keep fighting during this pandemic," she added.

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