THE GAME 2022 July Web L weightlifting 1

Lifting the nation: The rise of Philippine weightlifting

Hidilyn Diaz’s historic Olympic gold medal is a result of the years that the Philippines spent building up weightlifting as a sport.

The talk of weightlifting may not have caught many ears five years ago. But, through its steady growth over the years, it has become top of mind in the Filipinos’ consciousness. Now when you think of weightlifting, it’s likely one image pops into your head: Hidilyn Diaz. 

The truth is, not many sports in the Philippines can say that they have Olympic medals. And Hidilyn’s historic win at the Tokyo Olympics was arguably the biggest sporting moment for modern Philippine sports. But, the country wouldn’t have made it without every single medal that came before.

The weight of the world

Weightlifting has been growing right under our noses, as the Philippines has recently been more persistent in getting on the podium in international tournaments. 

The Philippines' weightlifting medals from 2012 to 2022.

Weightlifting as a sport in the Philippines is unique because we have medals across all levels. Finishing on the podium in events all over the world is no easy feat.

But our weightlifting presence across the world really began to take shape in 2015. That year, we accumulated five golds and one silver in the Asian Weightlifting Championship, and four bronzes in the World Weightlifting Championships.

Since then, our country has earned more medals in the Southeast Asian Games, the Asian Weightlifting Championships, and the World Weightlifting Championships than ever before. And this is the exact momentum that Hidilyn was riding on to capture that Olympic gold. Just look at how she built up to it:

  • 2015: Silver at the Asian Weightlifting Championships
  • 2016: Silver at the Rio Olympics
  • 2018: Gold at the Asian Games
  • 2021: Gold at the Tokyo Olympics

This development marked a new beginning for Philippine weightlifting. It was as though the country suddenly found a niche sport that they were great at. And if you’re proud of Hidilyn for owning roughly 40% of these medals, you should be proud of our other athletes too. 

Heavy lifters

The beautiful thing about the Philippines’ weightlifting team is that even though events are individual, all athletes carry their own weight (literally and figuratively). Let’s take a look at just a few of our heavy lifters from the last few years. 

After Hidilyn, it’s her cousin Mary Flor Diaz who owns the most medals with six to her name. Kristel Macrohon and Nestor Colonia lift much of our weight too, with five medals apiece. Erleen Ando, who just brought home a silver medal from the SEA Games, has four. And whom many refer to as Hidilyn’s heir, Vanessa Sarno holds three at the young age of 18. 

As the years have gone by, the Philippines has built muscle in the weightlifting department. Our athletes are no stranger to the podium, and they will continue building on their feats. 

What’s next?

While the SEA Games just ended with four new medals to our flag, the year is not over. 

This September, we have a shot at adding to one of our emptier areas on the table: the Asian Games. With Hidilyn’s 2018 gold-finish sitting alone, our athletes have a few more months of preparation to make their own additions.  

Weightlifting is one of the sports in the country that has defined modern Filipino sports, represented by world-class athletes, a newfound admiration for more sports, and the momentum taking shape in our podium finishes. Already, this is something to celebrate.