Over the past few days, we’ve seen quite a lot of photographs of Hidilyn Diaz’s moment of triumph in Tokyo. Images of her lifting that 127-kg barbell; of her in mid ecstatic scream; of her with a mask, in tears and doing a hand salute as “Lupang Hinirang” played in a room where she was given the very first Filipino-won Olympic gold medal.
But there’s another photo currently being shared by professional photographers on social media that seems to say as much about the victorious Filipino athlete as the ones that show her in tearful jubilation: it’s a photo of her hands. If there’s one image that shows not only the 30-year old Pinay’s achievement but also the kind of hardship she went through to get to where she is now, it’s the picture above.
“The photo was taken right after a series of media interviews Hidilyn conducted at the Olympic village the morning after her triumph,” says sports writer and Cignal TV host Paolo del Rosario who took the picture and posted it on his Instagram. “Diaz had just finished doing an interview for Malaysian media and took the time to talk to me beside the stage.”
Paolo, one of the lucky few media from the the Philippines able to witness Hidilyn’s historic lift and awarding in Tokyo, asked the athlete if she could show him her hands. And she did, with a smile. “I was always fascinated by the tools by which athletes conduct their trade,” Paolo tells ANCX. “In Hidilyn’s case, it was her hands.”
The new gold medalist’s hands were marked by calluses and wounds old and new. “There are more wounds than what you see,” she told the reporter.
Paolo took the picture with his camera phone. He says he didn’t expect the wounds to still look fresh. “I feel like the callouses were expected, but the wounds reminded me of how much she had to endure as she was competing for our first ever gold medal.” Hidilyn lived in Malaysia for her isolation training for more than a year, painstakingly keeping body and mind in the best shape while missing her family in Zamboanga.
The night before the picture was taken Hidilyn had asked Paolo to try holding the medal. “I was hesitant to hold it, but she insisted and said that it wasn’t just hers but for all of us,” recalls the young media man. “So the emotion that came over me seeing the marks on her hands in detail and seeing the gold medal resting on her palm was surreal and overwhelming.”
Paolo, who has been a sportswriter since 2015, says covering the Olympics has been especially challenging due to the enforced Covid protocols in Tokyo. “But despite all of it, it is such a privilege and a joy to document what our athletes are doing here for the flag on their chest and for everyone at home.”
To hear the reporter say it, his encounters with Hidilyn are definitely highlights of his time in the Olympic village so far. They talked about how she wanted to stay around for a while and watch all her kababayan athletes play and perform.
“She very much wanted to be the loud encouraging voice in the cavernous empty venues the athletes are competing in,” Paolo tells ANCX. “Due to the restrictions in Tokyo, that can’t happen. But if she had her way, you’d probably hear on the broadcast her cheering on every single Filipino athlete left competing here.”
[Photo is used with permission from Cignal TV - One Sports and Paolo del Rosario.]