The 30-year-old lifter set an Olympic record with her monumental win.
It took almost 100 years for it to happen, but the Philippines finally has its first Olympics gold medal. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, already a hero to many for her wins around the world including her silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games, just won the Women’s 55 KG event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Diaz bested eight others at the event, and was in a dogfight with world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China as the competition drew to an exciting conclusion. The two would trade leads near the end, with Diaz needing to lift a kilogram heavier after each attempt to best the Chinese champion.
After Liao lifted a 126 to take back the lead with her last attempt, the Filipina had to go for a 127—an Olympic record—to grab the gold.
Diaz, a Philippine Airforce Sergeant, then stepped onto the platform determined, while loudly giving herself words of encouragement. Then, while the entire nation held its breath, she powerfully held on to her positions through the snatch and jerk, sealing the win.
Diaz then briefly collapsed on to the floor crying before being mobbed by teammates. She finally achieved what she set out to do, and what countless of her countrymen have tried for decades.
The road to the country’s first ever Gold medal was long and hard for the 30-year-old Zamboanga native. Diaz first competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she was the youngest competitor in her category.
Eight years later, she qualified again and competed in the 53 KG division, bested everyone except for gold medalist Hsu Shu-ching. While she came out of the competition hungry to do one better, she would feel the weight of the country’s expectations on her shoulders.
“Kinakabahan ako na every time na naririnig ko na ‘gold na yan—naisip ko na kailangan ko embrace na ito ang destiny ko, kailangan ko i-claim para manalo ako,” she says in the four-part docu series Let’s Go HD!
And win she did.
With her historic win, Diaz will not only be celebrated throughout the country, but will be awarded sizeable incentives.
As a gold medal winner, Diaz will be awarded with P10 million each from the government, Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, and San Miguel Corporation owner Ramon Ang. House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero also committed an additional P3 million for anyone winning gold. Megaworld also announced that it will be gifting the athlete a P14 million condo in Eastwood.
The prizes reflect the frustrations of the country at the Olympic games. Only two other athletes—boxers Mansueto Velasco (1996 Atlanta) and Anthony Villanueva (1964 Tokyo) ever came close to what Diaz has achieved. Arianne Cerdeña did win a gold for Women’s Bowling in 1988, but it was only held as a demonstration sport then and did not count.
Diaz moved to Malaysia a couple of years ago for training, but was stuck there as COVID-19 ravaged the world. She has not seen her family for two years.
“I’m really thankful I can go home now and celebrate with my family and the people who support me,” the Olympic champion told reporters after her win.