MANILA - When Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the Philippines' first ever gold in the Olympics on Monday, she proudly displayed another medal that caught many people's attention.
It was a devotional medallion with the Virgin Mary depicted as the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
"Her victory was captured through many lenses and in one of these photos was her holding the gold medal and wearing a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady on her chest," Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said in a statement a day after Diaz' historic win in the Tokyo Olympics.
"We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God."
The CBCP called the 30-year-old champion "a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and her deep Catholic faith."
"On behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), I extend my utmost gratitude to Hidilyn for bringing honor to our country with her determined spirit and undying passion for what she does," Valles said.
Diaz told reporters that the medal was given to her by friends before she competed in Tokyo.
It has been used by many Marian devotees especially those who are attributing miracles through the Our Lady's intercession. The inscribed image was based on Saint Catherine Labouré's visions of Mary in 1830.
Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula also congratulated Diaz, saying that her victory is an inspiration and a source of hope especially during this difficult time for the country due to the pandemic.
"Salamat din sa iyong pagpapatotoo, sa iyong matibay na pananampalataya sa Diyos at malalim na pag-ibig sa Mahal na Birheng Maria. Salamat sa pagpapaalala sa amin na walang tunay na tagumpay kung hindi ito nagmumula sa Diyos," Advincula said.
[Thank you for your confirmation, for your firm faith in God and your deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. Thank you for reminding us that there is no true victory if it is not from God.]
In 2018, Diaz was a guest at the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization.
During the segment of then Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Diaz shared how she clung to her faith as she hurdled many challenges in her life as an athlete.
"Na-feel ko yung emptiness, 'di ko alam kung ano 'yung purpose ko sa buhay kung bakit ako nasa weightlifting," Diaz had said.
"That time, 'yung journey ko with God din kasi, nakilala ko si God personally. Natuto ako mag-pray. Kasi dati talaga, hindi ako marunong mag-pray. Then nagtiwala ako kay God. Kasi sabi ko, may purpose bakit ako nandito, bakit ako nasa weightlifting."
(I felt that emptiness, I did not know my purpose in life and why I was in weightlifting. That time was also my journey with God because I got to know Him personally. I learned how to pray because before, I did not know how. Then I entrusted everything to God because I said there is a purpose why I'm here, why I'm in weightlifting.)
Diaz secured the country's first gold medal in the quadrennial meet after beating her Chinese opponent Liao Qiuyun at the 55 kilogram category in women's weightlifting.
The Filipina athlete lifted an Olympic record of 224 kilograms. She gambled at 127 kg in her final attempt to eventually end the gold medal drought of the country in the Olympics.
This is the second Olympic medal of Diaz, who is competing in her fourth straight Olympics, after taking home silver in the 2016 edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.