Hidilyn Diaz expected to be moving onto the Lindenwood University campus next week in anticipation of starting classes during the fall semester.
But her plans to pursue a degree in exercise science took an exciting detour when she qualified for the Olympic weightlifting team representing her native Phillipines. While her new classmates were packing for school on Sunday, Diaz was powerlifting her way to becoming a national hero.
Diaz, 25, earned the silver medal in the 53kg category of women’s weightlifting. It was the first Olympic medal an athlete from the Phillipines has won in 20 years. The last came when Mansueto Velasco took silver for boxing in 1996.
Instead of taking notes in class this fall, she’ll be taking a victory tour of her home country, complete with a visit with its leader.
“I am impressed, and I would like to wait for you, to receive you in the People’s Palace of Malacanang,” Phillipines President Rodrigo Duerte said in a public statement. “As president of this country, I am overjoyed.”
She lifted 200kg, edging Yoon Jin-hee of South Korea’s 199kg bronze medal effort. Hsu Shu-ching, of Chinese Taipei, won the gold medal, lifting 212kg.
Diaz previously competed in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, and the 2012 Olympics in London, England. She is now expected to start classes at Lindenwood in the spring.
Cutline: Incoming Lindenwood University student Hidilyn Diaz receives her silver medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. Photo By Lars Baron / Getty Images