Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who won the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal this week, on Thursday said that she has fond memories of training in Kaohsiung in 2019 and feels like she has family there.
In an online interview organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Diaz said she visited Taiwan twice in 2019 so she could concentrate on her training without being distracted by friends and invitations to socialize.
“I feel like I have also family there,” she said, adding that she did her training sessions at Gushan Senior High School in Kaohsiung.
Diaz, who claimed gold in the under-55kg class in Tokyo on Tuesday, said that she had intended to return to Taiwan a third time to continue her training, but her plans were upended when the nation closed its borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and she went to Malaysia instead.
Taiwan is “really a good place to train,” the 30-year-old said, adding that she was inspired to do her best because children in Kaohsiung looked up to her.
In addition, she got to train with Taiwanese weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun, who won a gold medal in the women’s under-59kg class on Tuesday.
“It was really nice to be there, and all the coaches were really good and cool,” Diaz said. “The food in Kaohsiung was also great. That’s why I really love it there.”
Diaz said that she has been invited to revisit Taiwan and she would love to do so with other Philippine athletes to exchange knowledge and build friendships.
In a statement on Wednesday, Gushan Senior High School congratulated Diaz for winning the gold medal and setting an Olympic record on Monday, when she lifted a combined weight of 224kg.
School principal Chuang Fu-tai and head coach Wu Ming-tung said that Diaz had been training on the school campus in 2019 from July to September, and in November and December.
Everyone found Diaz to be kind and approachable, the school said, adding that she was the Rio de Janeiro Olympic silver medalist at the time.
Citing some of its students, the school said that while Diaz was in Kaohsiung, she liked to climb Shoushan, visit Cijin Island and Sizihwan Bay, and sample local specialties, such as pearl milk tea.
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