For as long as she can remember, Hidilyn Diaz has been carting five-gallon jugs of water to her home in a poor Philippines village. It was only a matter of time before she started lifting real weights.
Now, the stocky, bashful 17-year-old is one of 15 athletes from the Philippines heading to Beijing, and she is hoping her hard work and sacrifice will help her become her country's first-ever Olympic gold medallist.
Such a feat would not only be a sporting achievement -- it would earn her 15 million pesos (339,000 dollars), an unthinkable fortune in an impoverished country where a third of the population lives on a dollar a day or less.
"I will try my best," Diaz told AFP , explaining how her Olympic dreams have changed an otherwise ordinary teenage life.
"I can't wear sexy gowns or high heels. I can't have a boyfriend and I walk like a boy. Sometimes I get jealous as my female friends go to school while I have to lift weights."
Diaz, one of seven children born to a tricycle driver in a poor coastal village near the southern port of Zamboanga, started training out of necessity -- her family's two-bedroom home has no running tap water.
So every day, the first order of business is to haul two five-gallon containers of water home for the family to use for cooking, drinking and bathing.
"We have to buy our water. Each container is worth a peso (2.26 US cents)," she said.
She discovered the colourful barbell discs at age 11, at a weightlifting gym in Zamboanga run by one of her male cousins -- a former national champion. Several other cousins also won national titles.
"I got curious so I began lifting," she said.
Earlier this year, Diaz left behind the water jugs and her family for China, where she has been training with the world's best after a top-three finish at the last Southeast Asian Games.
"I miss my mother. I have not seen her since March," Diaz said.
Her personal bests are still far off the mark set by the 58-kg favourite, China's Yue Hongmei, the double world champion.
But Monico Puentevella, head of the Philippine Olympic delegation, describes Diaz -- the country's first lifter in 20 years -- as a "project" who is not expected to reach her full potential until the 2012 London Olympics.
The Philippines, which has seen two boxers win silver in the past 44 years, only has one fighter competing in Beijing after a dismal showing at the last world championships.
This has put added pressure on Diaz, along with two track and field entries, two divers, five swimmers, an archer, a shooter and two taekwondo jins who make up the Filipino contingent.
The swimmers trained in the United States and are coached by Suriname's Anthony Nesty, the 1988 Olympics gold medallist in the men's 100-metre butterfly, while the jins sparred with the world's best in South Korea.
"My fearless forecast is that they will be successful," Philippine Olympic Committee head Roberto Aventajado told reporters, declining to set specific medal targets.