MANILA, Philippines -- For Hidilyn Diaz's friends and weightlifting buddies, her triumph in the Tokyo Olympics is a tremendous source of pride and inspiration, and they hope it will compel more Filipinos -- particularly women -- to take up the sport.
The 30-year-old Diaz made history on Monday night when she topped the women's 55kg division in the Summer Games, in the process securing the Philippines' first-ever gold medal in the Olympics.
Weightlifter Gian Manuel first met Diaz in 2014. At the time, Diaz was already a veteran of two Olympics, having competed in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Since then, he has been in full support of Diaz's Olympic dreams.
After watching Diaz compete in Tokyo, Manuel said it was his friend's best performance ever.
"As in nakakagulat, compared sa previous competitions niya talaga, grabe. Parang starting, opening lift pa lang niya eh parang more than what she's lifting before na kaagad eh," he noted.
Cyrus Cruz, a former tournament director of the Hidilyn Diaz Weightlifting Open Championships and the founder of the UP Weightlifting Club, said Diaz richly deserved her triumph after having seen the sacrifices that his friend had to make over the years.
According to Cruz, his advice to Diaz going into the Tokyo Games had been simple -- to go all out.
"At least we can say na hindi tayo nagkulang. At least when you do your final lift there in Tokyo, you can say to yourself that we did everything the best that we can do," said Cruz.
Now that Diaz has achieved her goal, her friends are hopeful that more and more lifters will follow in her footsteps -- and possibly even deliver more medals for the country.
"Sa country kasi natin, maraming sports fan tapos karamihan lalaki. Sana mag-inspire siya ng mas marami pang tao lalo nang mga babae na huwag pakinggan 'yung mga naysayers, s'yempre di ba ang daming bashers," said Manuel.
"Kung mga babae, gustong mag-lift ng weights, bakit hindi? Ito na ang exhibit A, gold medalist," he added.
"Sana, after nitong gold na ito, mas marami siyang ma-inspire na tao."
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