Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner, Hidilyn Diaz, credited her Christian faith after setting a weightlifting Olympic record this week in Tokyo.
Diaz, 30, captured first place in the women’s 55-kilogram division on Monday by lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms (about 493 pounds).
Following her July 26 victory, the four-time Olympian praised God while holding the “Our Lady’s Miraculous Medal” around her neck.
According to Catholic News Agency, she repeatedly shouted, “Thank You, Lord.”
During the podium ceremony, the athlete reportedly pointed toward Heaven and made the sign of the cross before stepping down.
During a media interview the next day, she reportedly said the "miraculous medal" “is a sign of … my faith to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” she declared.
The woman thanked her friends who prayed for her and revealed that she also prayed the Catholic Miraculous Medal novena before her win. Diaz told reporters that her Miraculous Medal was given to her by friends before she left to compete in the Olympics.
“They prayed a novena for nine days before my competition,” she told the media, sharing that she also prayed a novena herself. A novena is a popular Catholic spiritual devotion that consists of Catholic prayer for nine consecutive days.
On Instagram, Diaz posted a story sharing her gratitude for her supporters.
“Thank you for praying!” the clip read.
At the top of the year, the athlete shared another post acknowledging her team.
“I thank God for having a team who is there fighting and working together for one goal and one dream for the Philippines. We will grow together towards #Tokyo2020,” she wrote at the time.
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, praised Diaz's success.
“Her victory was captured through many lenses, and in one of those photos was her holding the gold medal and wearing a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady on her chest," Valles said in a statement, according to Catholic News Service. "We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God."
“Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and a deep Catholic faith,” the archbishop continued. “Congratulations, Hidilyn! May the Lord continue to bless you with perseverance.”
The Mindanao native is the fifth of six children in her family. A feature on Diaz from Olympics.com provides insight into her upbringing. The article revealed that while still in school, Diaz helped her father sell vegetables and fish throughout the community and the local market. The family had to eat rice mixed with soy sauce many nights.
She was reportedly introduced to weightlifting by her cousin and started lifting weights using plastic pipes and homemade concrete weights.
“I’m just thankful to God that he gave me a chance to be a role model, for the youth to believe in the fact that Ate [a Tagalog word meaning 'older sister'] Hidilyn is a fighter, fighting for her dreams,” she was quoted as saying in the article. “Maybe God brought me here to inspire the youth to engage in sports and teach them the value of sports.”
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic