With a flick of the wrist, Hidilyn Diaz lifts the spirit of a struggling nation

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Courtesy: Tokyo 2020/Twitter

(CNN Philippines) — In a sport that's not been given much attention in the country, a lady from Zamboanga changed Philippine sporting history in a matter of seconds.

Weightlifting is now the talk of the town in the Philippines.

All eyes were on Hidilyn Diaz as she competed in the women's 55kg. category at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Monday night.

The pressure was high for the seasoned Olympian. After ending the Philippines' two-decade medal drought in the quadrennial meet in Brazil five years ago, she was one of the athletes expected to bring home a medal from Japan.

The road to Tokyo was not a walk in the park for Diaz. The 30-year-old struggled to raise funds for her training leading up to this year's Olympics. She encountered a lot of challenges along the way, but that did not stop her from raising the country's flag on the biggest stage.

Prior to her triumphant campaign in the Tokyo Olympics, Diaz already brought pride to the country after winning gold in the 2018 Asian Games and another gold in the Roma 2020 World Cup. However, she knew in her heart that an Olympic gold is a legacy that will leave a mark for generations to come.

In her fourth straight appearance in the Olympics, Diaz made sure that her lift will write history as the country's finest performance. Her body language was noticeably different when she stepped on the mat, her presence radiated an energy never seen before.

The room for error became smaller for Diaz as she progressed.

Just like in the movies, the defining moment was witnessed by millions of Filipinos. Trailing by two with the Filipina weightlifter going for the last attempt of the event, her team decided to go a notch higher over China's Qiuyun Liao. This was pivotal because it will put her in the lead and secure the top prize. And with one astonishing lift, the rest became history for Diaz and the Philippines.

Diaz also set two Olympic records: her 224kg. total and the 127kg. she lifted in the clean and jerk event.

Since joining the Olympics 97 years ago in 1924, the Philippines produced only a total of 10 medals — three silver and seven bronze. Diaz winning the country's first gold medal was not only monumental but also sentimental. It gave hope to a nation that is facing difficulties on different levels.

Diaz's victory hopes to serve as a reminder for local sports officials to give world-class Filipino athletes the support they need.