Far from home: Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz

Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz grunts as she hoists a barbell in a makeshift outdoor gym ringed by banana and rambutan trees as trucks thunder past — an unlikely training base for a shot at Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Diaz, 30, who took silver at Rio 2016, has been stuck in Malaysia since February last year due to COVID-19 but is determined to realize her dream of becoming the first Philippine Olympic gold medal winner.

She went to train in Malaysia because her Chinese coach thought it would be better for her as she focused on qualifying for Tokyo.

But COVID-19 restrictions left Diaz to battle gym closures, lack of access to weightlifting equipment and the grinding uncertainty of whether the Games would be held at all.

During a break in energy-sapping heat and humidity for her fourth, and probably last, Olympics, Diaz said, “I’m ready. I can’t say at what percent, but I’m there — my mind is there, my heart is there, physically it’s there.”

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