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Gold Medalist Hidilyn Diaz

(Editor’s Note:  Ruffy Magbanua wrote this piece in August 11, 2016 after her stint at the Rio Olympics where she brought home a Silver Medal.  Today, the nation celebrates her triumph anew, this time  at the Tokyo Olympics after winning the country’s first Gold Medal  in 96 years).

SHE left the country three weeks ago with nothing but a dream.  She went home the other day with a special gift to a nation besieged  with controversies.

Rio Olympics Silver Medalist Hidilyn Diaz was warmly welcomed by her  countrymen with a  heroine’s welcome and attention fit for a queen.

Her ardent prayers and the will to make a mark at the Rio Olympics had made wonders to this 25-year old Zamboanguena.

Hidilyn’s extraordinary feat ended the country’s 20 year drought in the Olympics with a silver medal finish in the weightlifting competition.

After her Olympic stints in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, trained hard for the Rio Olympics with a simple wish: to win a bronze medal.

“That’s all I wanted – a bronze medal. But God gave me the silver medal,” says the Air Force member, who became the first Filipino female athlete to win an Olympic medal.

She is also the first Filipino Olympic medalist from Mindanao.   The Philippines has won nine medals in the Olympics, all courtesy of male athletes, since it first participated in 1924.

It’s the third silver for the country after boxers Anthony Villanueva and Onyok Velasco win in 1964 and 1996.  The Philippines has yet to win the gold.

On top of monetary rewards coming from private donors, Diaz is scheduled to receive P5 million from Malacanang as her incentive in winning the silver in the Olympics.

A house and lot also awaits for Hidilyn and her poor yet proud parents.

Her journey to fame (and physical comfort in the coming days) can be traced to her place in Mambang,  Zamboanga City where she used to carry pails of water, and later with decrepit iron lifts provided by her father who earned their keep by driving a motorized trike for hire.

Hidilyn, the fifth of six children of couple Eduardo and Emelita Diaz will go down in the country’s sports history as the first – and so far the only – Filipina to ever win an Olympic medal.

The only daughter, Hidilyn competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics and was also the youngest competitor in the women’s 58-kg category in that same Olympics.

She was a bronze medalist in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand and achieved 10th place at the 2006 Asian Games in the 53-kilogram class.

A student of the Universidad de Zamboanga, Hidilyn also won two golds and one silver in the Asian Youth/Junior Weightlifting Championship held in Jeonju, South Korea.

So what’s in store for this young PAF second-class airwoman turned instant celebrity cum sports superstar?

Diaz is expected to receive a P5-million ($106,593) cash reward and other benefits as mandated by law.

On top of the government’s cash reward, she will also receive a cash bonus from Sen. Manny Pacquiao, amount of which is  still undisclosed.

Diaz is also set to receive free state college education and a “generous” retirement package, among others, for bringing honor to the country.

•    20% discount on transportation, hotels, restaurants, recreation, purchase of medicine and sports equipment

•    Minimum of 20% discount on cinemas, concerts, carnivals, leisure, and amusement parks

•    Free medical and dental consultations in government hospitals and similar establishments anywhere in the country

•    PhilHealth coverage through the sponsored program of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC)

•    A comprehensive social security program to be formulated by the Social Security System (SSS)

•    Priority in national housing programs, affordable housing loans and other housing opportunities

•    Use of living quarters and training centers set up and maintained by the PSC for the exclusive use of national athletes while preparing and training for international competitions

•    A P30,000-aid to cover the funeral expenses of a deceased athlete or coach (This provision also covers the athlete’s or coach’s primary beneficiaries)

For Hidilyn, the  road to Rio was indeed a journey of grit, patience,  determination  and prayers.

Buenas Diaz, Hidilyn!  (ruffy44_ph2000@yahoo.com)

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