On July 26, 2021 — the day Olympian Hidilyn Diaz won the first gold medal for the Philippines in the country’s decades-long history of competing in the international games — the below-displayed meme went viral on Facebook supposedly outlining the 30-year-old weightlifter’s journey to first place.
In short, the post claimed Diaz persevered and improved throughout her four Olympic appearances, going from “second to last” in her weightlifting event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics” to a “gold medal” at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The post accurately detailed the four-time Olympian’s experience and showed authentic photos of her — a conclusion we reached, in part, on Getty Images’ database of photo journalism. For those reasons, we rate this claim “True.”
Using Getty Images’ search tool, we found a series of photographs similar to the meme’s upper-left corner showing Diaz during the 2008 Beijing Olympics; upper-right corner depicting her at the 2012 London Olympics; lower-left corner 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and 2020 Tokyo Games.
Next, we referred to a Feb. 3, 2020, profile story about Diaz on the Olympics’ official website.
According to that report, a 17-year-old Diaz indeed made her Olympic debut at the Beijing Games in 2008. Competing in the women’s 58-kilograms class (about 128 pounds), Diaz broke her own Philippines record set at the previous year’s Southeast Asian Games. However, like the meme claimed, the performance was not medal-worthy; Diaz placed 11th out of 12 weightlifters in her event.
Then, at the 2012 Olympics, she made three unsuccessful attempts to lift 118 kilograms (about 260 pounds) — tallying an official “DNF,” or “did not finish,” on her Olympic record. After that, the report continued, she moved down weight classes, to the 53-kilograms (about 117 pounds) category, in hopes of increasing her winning odds.
“That proved a turning point in her career; within the next four-year Olympic cycle the medals started coming and the wins mounted up,” the story said.
At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Diaz cleared 111 kilograms (about 245 pounds) on her first try and then chalked up 112 kilograms (approximately 247 pounds) — a performance that earned a silver medal, behind Hsu Shu-Ching of Taiwan. That win by Diaz was the Philippines’ first Olympic medal since Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco won boxing silver a decade earlier.
Fast forward five years, and the meme factually recounted Diaz’s win at the Tokyo Games. In the 55-kilogram weight class (about 121 pounds), she upset world record holder Liao Quiyun of China and won with a total of 224 kilograms (roughly 494 pounds). It was the first time an athlete representing the Philippines won gold since the country started competing at the Summer Olympics in 1924.
After the accomplishment, Diaz told reporters, according to The Associated Press:
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “To all the young generation in the Philippines, please dream high. That’s how I started. I dreamed high and finally I was able to do it.”
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