Olympic medalist and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz turned 30 years old in February 2021—she started the sport when she was only 11 years old, and she has been a weightlifter for a total of 19 years now! During an interview with Summit Media journalists, we asked Hidilyn for the best lesson she learned in her 20s, and her answer is honestly super inspiring.
"Natutunan ko lang mahalin yung sports and myself at the age of 22," Hidilyn shares. "Alam ko sa mga Pilipina, ang dami nating insecurities, ang dami nating 'bakit siya maputi, bakit ako maitim, bakit ako maliit, bakit siya matangkad?' We just have to choose to appreciate ourselves, love who we are, and love what we're doing, love the people [around us]. Mahirap 'yon, but loving yourself is the most important thing, lalong lalo na 'pag nasa 20s ka, discovering the sport, discovering yourself, mas importante talaga mahalin mo ang sarili mo."
Hidilyn Diaz's dream for aspiring Filipina athletes
We also asked Hidilyn about the future she envisions for Pinay athletes, and she shared: "Sana makita natin ang mga Filipina athletes as our heroes—yung nirerespeto at tinitignan natin hindi lang yung medal nila, but also their sacrifices. Sana ganun lahat ng bawat Pilipino, makita nila yung sacrfices ng bawat atleta na nag-training para irepresenta ang Pilipinas sa international platform. 'Yon yung pangarap ko—na sana maibigay ang nararapat para sa mga atleta...Sana may sumunod sa amin, hindi kami ang last na Filipina athletes na nanalo sa Asian Games, sa Olympics. Sana mas marami pa, at sana dumoble pa."
Hidilyn is a 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist, a 2018 Asian Games gold medalist, and a 2019 SEA Games gold medalist. She will be competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in July 2021! Hidilyn was supposed to be in Malaysia for her training for only 55 days, but because of COVID-19 and lockdowns, her team decided to stay there.
At present, Hidilyn is a student at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and she's in a relationship with fellow athlete Julius Irvin Naranjo—who is also her coach! She talked about how much Julius and her team supported her during the pandemic, saying, "Noong time na ayoko na, nandito sila para i-lift ako."
Since it's International Women's Month, here's Hidilyn's message for all Filipinas out there: "Tsina-challenge ko kayo to learn new things, to grow, to break the barriers, para maging inspirasyon sa mga kababaihan na susunod sa atin, para maging inspirasyon sa younger generation."