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Olympic fame brings fortune, bodyguards to Hidilyn

12:52 AM August 21, 2016
TAKING A PRECIOUS BREATHER  Hidilyn Diaz relaxes at a waiting lounge at the mayor’s office in Zamboanga City. JULIE ALIPALA / INQUIRER MINDANAO

TAKING A PRECIOUS BREATHER Hidilyn Diaz relaxes at a waiting lounge at the mayor’s office in Zamboanga City. JULIE ALIPALA / INQUIRER MINDANAO

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The only Filipino athlete to bring home an Olympic medal after 20 years is finding her newfound fame to be both liberating, financially, and restrictive as far as her movement is concerned.

Hidilyn Diaz, who won the silver medal in weightlifting in the Rio Olympics, is finding her fame to be not only life-changing, but routine-altering as well.

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Diaz, whose silver medal brought the lone Olympic honor to the Philippines after 20 years, used to sneak out of her house to hang out with friends or spend time weightlifting with children.

On her free time after training, she coaches children on weightlifting in her community in Barangay Mampang here.

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Sometimes, she would ride her motorcycle and go mall hopping with friends or hang out in her favorite bakeshop.

“I can no longer do all these stuff. My movement is limited, and there are some guys securing me now,” Hidilyn told the Inquirer. “I am trying to adjust,” she said.

Councilor Elbert Atilano Sr., Diaz’s former coach and now personal handler, said the Philippine Air Force provided two bodyguards for Hidilyn. “They said Hidilyn is considered a national treasure and pride,” Atilano said.

Hidilyn lives in the village of Mampang, some 10 kilometers from the city center.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar said she had already instructed the Zamboanga City police office to also provide security for Hidilyn.

“Not only security for Hidilyn, but also security in the periphery of her home,” the mayor said.

Senior Supt. Luisito Magnaye, the city police chief, said although there are no threats to Diaz, the more than P7 million in cash prize she received for winning an Olympic silver medal might “attract bad people.”

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Magnaye said four policemen have been detailed as close in security escorts for Diaz when she moves around the city.

Atilano said Diaz will have a three-month vacation before she resumes training.

“Her schedule is fully loaded until night time,” Atilano said.

Diaz has already received several offers for product endorsements, mostly for food and cars, Atilano said. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Hidilyn Diaz, Regions, Rio Olympics
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