Before Hidilyn Diaz put on her Olympic gold medal -- a medal that the Philippines waited nearly a century for -- she untucked a small, glittering medallion out of her jacket and clutched it.
It was a Miraculous Medal, a devotional medal given to Diaz by her friends before she competed in the Tokyo Olympics -- her fourth appearance in the Summer Games.
"Nag-novena sila for nine days before my competition," Diaz told reporters on Tuesday after her historic feat. "Ako din, nag-novena."
"It's a sign of 'yung prayers nila and faith pa rin, to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ," she explained.
For Diaz, her unshakeable faith is a major reason for her success in the Tokyo Olympics, after a long and difficult journey that had plenty of challenges -- including a global pandemic that put the Summer Games in doubt.
She gave credit to those who kept the faith along with her, particularly her "prayer warriors" in the Philippines.
"Na-sorpresa ako na nagawa ko 'yun," Diaz had told Gretchen Ho of Cignal TV on Monday night, after her triumph. "Kakaiba si God."
Diaz had been the picture of composure and poise while competing, stony faced as she approached the platform and made her lifts, only letting out a yell of success after each good lift. But her emotions finally betrayed her in her last attempt, when she hoisted 127kg in the clean and jerk -- an Olympic record -- to secure the gold medal.
Even as she held the bar above her head, steadying her knees, Diaz was already beginning to cry. Her tears continued through the awarding ceremony, where she received the gold medal from another Filipina -- IOC board member Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski.
Diaz, who is set to receive well over P30 million in incentives for her golden feat, is hopeful that she can serve as an inspiration to the Filipino people -- and that nothing is impossible even in the midst of all the challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Hindi po madali ang pagkapanalo ko ng gold medal," she said. "Gusto ko sabihin sa lahat ng Pilipino -- walang imposible. Marami tayong pinagdadaanan dahil sa pandemic pero… walang imposible."
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