Australia's Filipino community celebrates as Hidilyn Diaz secures the Philippines' first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz wins Philippines' first Olympic gold medal with weightlifting, in an inspirational effort to secure the win.

Hidilyn Diaz, Tokyo Olympics, Tokyo 2020, gold medal

Hidilyn Diaz of Team Philippines competes during the Weightlifting - Women's 55kg Group A on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Source: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Philippines had never secured a gold medal in its 97-year history of participating in the Olympic Games.

But today that all changed when Hidilyn Diaz scored a number one victory in weightlifting, becoming her country's first ever gold medallist.

The 30-year-old weightlifter, who was competing in her fourth Olympic stint, dominated in the women's 55-kilogram division, gaining two Olympic records in the process. 

Diaz said she was "thankful" for winning gold during the pandemic. "It's a really big thing for me and all the Filipinos, because we didn't have gold for 97, 96 years," she said.

Having bagged the silver medal at Rio’s 2016 Olympic Games, Diaz outperformed top contender Liao Qiuyun, the Chinese reigning Asia champion who was deemed a frontrunner in the events lead up.

Only two years ago, Diaz was subject to public mocking after she spoke about a lack of support for athletes by the country's government.

But with her record-breaking 127-kilogram lift, Diaz’s performance has ignited excitement in Filipino communities around the world.

28-year-old Filipino woman Marla Morris, currently in Australia as an international student, told SBS News that the win was inspirational to women with Filipino heritage around the world.

“Our president is blatantly telling that women can't lead, women have no power, women can't do this, can't do that. As a Filipino and as a girl, seeing that this Filipina won, it made me proud and I cried as well,” Ms Morris said.

It was a sentiment shared by Jasmine Leggo, a weightlifter from Shoalhaven, with Filipino lineage who said the gold medal was heartening.

“You can’t put feeling like that into words. When you feel such pride and happiness for someone who has accomplished that… what more can you say other than it’s an amazing feeling,” she said.

The second youngest of six siblings, Diaz grew up in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga.

She competed in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2008 at Beijing; at 17 years old, she was the youngest female weightlifter in the competition

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been training in Malaysia to avoid the rising case numbers.

The Philippines has competed in all but one edition of the Summer Olympics since 1943, having previously secured three silver and seven bronze medals before Diaz’s win.

Hidilyn Diaz during the victory ceremony for the women's 53kg weightlifting event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 21, 2018.
Source: MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

Diaz's win marks the first time the country has made an appearance on the Olympic podium in 20 years.

The accomplishment will no doubt propel her to stardom in her home country, making her a national hero for generations to come.

Published 27 July 2021 at 8:59pm
By Mikele Syron