Philippines' first Olympic gold medalist was once accused of plotting to overthrow the president, but the man who accused her is now thanking her for winning

Philippines' first Olympic gold medalist was once accused of plotting to overthrow the president, but the man who accused her is now thanking her for winning
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Hidilyn Diaz, Duterte protests
Chris Graythen/Getty Images, Jes Aznar/Getty Images
  • Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz became the Philippines' first ever gold medalist on Monday.

  • Diaz was linked to a plot to overthrow Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte in 2019.

  • Diaz denied her involvement, and the man who accused her has now thanked her for her victory.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

An Olympic gold medal was all it took to change Hidilyn Diaz's reputation in the Philippines from an accused conspirator against the government to a recognized national hero.

The Filipino weightlifter won gold in the women's weightlifting 55 kg at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, becoming the first gold medalist in the history of her country.

But just two years ago, Diaz received death threats from her fellow Filipinos for her alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte and destabilize the government, according to CNN Philippines.

Diaz, who is also an active sergeant in the Philippines' airforce, was one of several individuals listed in documents that illustrated a plot to oust Duterte in May 2019 by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo. Diaz also wasn't the only athlete who was named, as Filipino volleyball star and TV personality Gretchen Ho was also included.

Diaz vigorously denied the claims shortly after her allegations were relased to the public in a video she posted to her social media channels.

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"When I first heard that my name was there, I just laughed. I thought it was a joke. But when I though about it, I had fear as well. Not because it is true, but I feared for me and my family's security," Diaz said in Filipino. "I am so focused on my goal for Tokyo 2020. Please do not drag the name of someone who is so busy sacrificing everything for the Philippines, doing everything to represent the Philippines in weightlifting, in Philippine sports but you suddenly put her name in a baseless matrix"

By May 2019, Diaz was already established as an elite weightlifter and one of the Philippines' best hopes to claim a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics. She had even won the first gold medal for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games, and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Still, that didn't stop Diaz's fellow countrymen from sending her deaththreats after she was linked to the ouster plot.

"I do not need defamation, accusations, made-up stories," she added. "I do not need lies from our fellow Filipinos. I need support, not just for me but for all Filipino athletes. I am not just lifting weights, I am uplifting the dignity of every Filipino."

But throughout the public backlash, Diaz remained committed to her goal of training for the Tokyo Olympics, which extended another year after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Games in 2020.

But on Monday, she established herself as a Philippines sports icon and regained the admiration of her people, even the man who initially accused her, Panelo.

"Her feat makes us Filipinos proud," Panelo said in a statement. "It serves as an inspiration to all Filipino athletes that getting gold in the Olympics is no longer a dream but a reality. Congratulations Hidilyn Diaz!"

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