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Overcoming odds

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We can’t stop talking about Hidilyn Diaz — the girl with the GOLD, the Olympic winner who lifted a weight off our shoulders just when we needed it most.

The 30-year-old weightlifter from Zamboanga is the first Filipina double Olympic medalist, claiming the Philippines’ first-ever gold medal after taking the silver in the 2016 Rio Olympic competition.

Now, as of this writing, woman boxer Nesthy Petecio is assured of “at least a bronze” after beating the world number one and going on her way to a possible higher distinction in the coming days.
Our nation’s prayers are with them, our brave Olympians who braved the odds in this pandemic to represent the country in the world’s most prestigious games.

Diaz, in the same way, “felt that she overcame all odds” to make it in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Her toughest competitor “holds the world record in the event with 102kg in the snatch, 129kg in the clean and jerk, and 227kg for the total,” reports say.

Diaz, her face a picture of all the stories we, Filipinos tell, gave it a shot, lifting a total weight she had never been able to lift before, knowing she had to — because, for her, quitting was never an option.

A lot has been said about the value of sports — of how it lifts the spirits of a nation when one of our own triumphs against the rest of the world. For a chunk of the population, these triumphs represent their own dreams of overcoming the odds.

Heroes are made from stories like those of hers, or of Efren “Bata” Reyes and Manny Pacquiao. They started out from nothing to being icons who can make even the most jaded among us believe in God, Mother Mary, and the miracle of hard work and determination.

Diaz carried pails of water in her youth to assist her family, building strength in the process. She studied hard with that goal many Filipinos share: To support her family and give them a better life.

That dream remained golden in her mind for years, never wavering. In a television interview with Jessica Soho, she recalled having a dream before the 2008 Olympics of God telling her she would win the gold in the Olympics.

That year, she went home with no medal. In 2012, the next Olympic Games, she still got nothing. Then in 2016, she grabbed a silver.

Where was the promised gold from that dream? A weaker soul would have given up. Diaz persisted. She believed, not just in that possibility, but in herself.

Faith and discipline took Hidilyn Diaz where no Filipino had tread before.

This is a story we know. We see it every time the country emerges from calamities, challenges, and even wars. We see it now, during this pandemic that has no end in sight.

With the Delta variant threatening to bring us right back to where we started, our country faces the blunt end of disappointment, where we strove so hard to win over the effects of the pandemic, winning over our own fears — only to face a bigger, more powerful threat.

This, as Hidilyn would say, is not the time to give up. We keep fighting. Our strength is our faith and perseverance.

What all our sports heroes give us is a lesson in grit, where that mental calm and discipline wrought from working doggedly toward a goal can yield enormous results.

Their triumph is our triumph. Their victory is our hope.

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