It all boiled down to the six lifts she needed to complete in London. Flag bearer Hidilyn Diaz whose Twitter account is @haidie20 prepared for years, stopped going to school, and gave hours upon hours every day to train for a sport that requires not just super human strength but also supreme faithfulness, a sport that has taken nearly a decade of her still young life.
The country was following intently with baited breath. She was a strong contender in her bracket where the only real threat was Maria Escobar of Ecuador. Though the world championship placers and the tougher field were in the other bracket, coming out on top in her field mattered most to millions who were glued to social media for live updates and on television.
She set her sights on lifting a total of 225kg as relayed by Coach Tony Agustin, which would have given her a fair chance to be part of the upper half in the field. Her first lift in snatch was an easy 92 kgs., but panic ensued when she failed on her second attempt at 97kgs.
She shrugged it off and stepped up to the podium for her third attempt and secured her personal best of 97kg, enough to be ranked second in her group. Perhaps she could have gone up higher if she had completed her second lift? Whatever it was, she put it behind her.
Escobar didn’t clear her 100kg till the second attempt and even upped the ante to 103kg in snatch. That didn’t faze Team Philippines headed by Congressman Monico Puentevella who was in the competitor’s holding area the entire time, keeping the vibe positive.
By this time, Diaz was trending on Twitter.
In the clean and jerk, she wanted to start off with a 118 kg attempt though she needed to clear 128 kgs to meet her desired 225kg target. The team knew it was possible since she lifted a 123 in the nationals. She failed though and even fell backwards. That probably shook her mentally more than it did physically.
She struggled to get the 118kg weight off the podium, and she just couldn’t get under her lift in the second attempt. Encouraging cheers from the crowd echoed throughout the venue, but stronger were the encouragements being offered on Twitterverse.
She continued to trend.
She was allowed one last lift. One last for the three stars and a sun. She might have felt the full weight of a nation on her shoulder because even though she gave all that she had left in her, she couldn’t do it.
She bowed out of contention and twitter was flooded with tweets to console her.
We are extremely proud of HIDILYN! In Beijing she was second to the last, but in London, she won the hearts of many around the world!
@JadeyJadie shared “ Maraming salamat, Hidilyn Diaz! Ang buong Pilipinas ay nananatiling proud sa'yo!”. @DELACRUZaiza was equally moved: “Miss @patriciahizon Hidilyn Diaz showed tremendous effort! She's tough!Really proud of her!”
@atotibonjing admits that Hidilyn gave him cold feet while @andrewordsmith admired how she played with so much heart and played it the Filipino way.
Confident that Hidilyn would do better in Rio 2016, @ejerbygo says “nothing to be ashamed of. To compete for our country is already a proud moment”. Her fellow Zamboanguena @iamDJELLA4life is oozing with pride and tweeted “she represents the women of today. Strong, powerful and proud”.
The end of the dramatic 5, 58kg women’s weightlifting event saw an Olympic record broken by China’s Xueling Li who lifted an amazing 246 kgs, 2kg more than what her compatriot set in Beijing.
A Southeast Asian won silver – Pimrisi Sirikaew of Thailand who edged out Ukraine’s Yuliya Kalina by only 1 kg for the silver. So even if Hidilyn got to her target of 225kgs, it still would have been 10kgs less than 3rd place.
Hidilyn might not have delivered a medal, but she did unite and inspire a country. Not too many are given that golden opportunity.