The two “hats” of Hidilyn Diaz (PHI)
Firstly, there is the athlete. An immense star of weightlifting and a hero in her country, the Philippines. Born in February 1991, Hidilyn Diaz started her international career with a 10th place at the 2008 Olympic Games. Since then, she was also present in London 2012, in Rio 2016 (where she was a silver medallist), and finally at the Tokyo 2020ne rendezvous – gold in the 55kg, with a total of 224kg. With the change in the Olympic categories – the 55kg is now replaced by the 59kg, Diaz had to adapt to this new reality, but we can say that she is quite successful for the time being.
After a first 59kg appearance at the 2023 Asian Championships – where she was fourth, with 221kg, her best coming to Riyadh in the Olympic Qualification Ranking – the Philippines’ champion did better in Saudi Arabia, on the fifth day of the IWF World Championships. She was only seventh, but with a higher total of 97-127-224. This means that Diaz continues in the top-10 of the Olympic ranking and has legitimate hopes of competing at her fifth Games, next year in the French capital.
“I messed up in the snatch. I could have reached an even better result, but things didn’t go as well as I wanted. I was perhaps overwhelmed by this new category for me… and I inevitably got a bit nervous at the beginning of the competition. Then, things went better towards the end,” confessed a smiling Diaz at the end of her performance. “But OK, I know I have plenty of room for improvement in the upcoming competitions. I am hopeful that I can get close to 230kg”.
And her optimism is contagious: “I tell you more – I want to win the gold in Paris!” In view of that, the preparation of her “body, muscles and strength” for the new category has been a “challenge. I got injured, I had some problems, and I even questioned myself if I could do it. I have doubts, but I am definitively happy that I took the decision to continue,” admits the 2022 world champion in the 55kg category. “But I have the ambition to win the Olympics one more time – that is what motivates me on a daily basis. You need to be ambitious – and I am ambitious!”
Then, there is the “other side”, the second “hat” of Hidilyn Diaz. Elected to the IWF Athletes Commission, she is also a member of the Executive Board, with full voting rights. More recently, she has been part of the working group in charge of creating the 2024-2032 IWF Strategic Plan, a document to be approved by the IWF Congress this Tuesday in Riyadh.
“Yes, sometimes this is more difficult than competing. I am really happy to be involved in the life and decision-making process of the IWF. It’s sometimes a huge responsibility, but a good one. But I chose this way, and my fellow athletes chose me to represent them. It’s a big honour for me,” she says. “Together with the other members of the Athletes Commission, I believe we brought positive changes to the IWF”.
Asked about the importance of these new developments, Diaz doesn’t hesitate: “Having athletes on the Board, making proposals, joining the discussions, and voting on relevant matters for the life of our Federation is a huge step forward. Moreover, being involved more recently in the elaboration of a strategic document for the IWF allowed me to share my ideas on how to progress in the long term, how to build up our brand, to engage more with our athletes and fans… All this is quite important for us. Finally, don’t forget I am a woman – I represent women’s weightlifting and I have a say in the development of our sport. This is fundamental for me!”
On her expectation concerning the changes caused by the new Strategic Plan, Diaz is clear: “It points out a direction. The new path the IWF must follow in order to succeed – in good governance, in gender equity… in so many other fields. This is a decisive step forward in the life of the IWF and its athletes. It is our duty to accomplish this mission and I am sure we will make it work!”
By Pedro Adrega, IWF Communications
Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia