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Hidilyn Diaz back in Manila after making history in Tokyo

Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (2nd update: 9:18 p.m.) — Olympic weightlifting gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and fellow athletes who had ended their bid at the Tokyo Olympics have returned home.

The group, aboard a Philippine Airlines flight, touched down at Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Wednesday at around 6 p.m.

Diaz' Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen and strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo were also on the flight.

TRACKER: Team Philippines at the Tokyo Olympics

Diaz who was wearing Team Philippines' red polo upon arrival changed to her white Philippine Air Force uniform as she presented the gold medal to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

Lt. Gen. Allan Paredes, chief of the air force, then conferred Diaz her promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant at the NAIA VIP lounge.

Hidilyn Diaz receives her promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant of the Philippine Air Force upon her arrival at the Manila airport on July 28, 2021.
PSC


Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Diaz, who had planned a low-key homecoming, will be given a virtual hero's welcome as the Philippines' first Olympic gold medalist.

Diaz will also have a courtesy call with President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night.

At the meeting, the Philippine Sports Commission is expected to present her with a gold medal of valor as part of the Expanded Athletes Incentives Act. Along with it will be the P10 million cash incentive for an Olympic gold medal.

The athletes will afterward head to their mandatory seven-day quarantine in a hotel.

The rest of Team Philippines is still in the running for medals in Tokyo. Boxer Nesthy Petecio, for one, has secured at least a bronze medal for the Philippines with a chance of punching her way to a silver or gold.

This is the first time Filipino athletes are taking home more than one Olympic medal since 1932.

Back after years of sacrifice and exile

Diaz, 30, will now forget the years of exile, sacrifice, training and nutrition that took her to the Philippines' first Olympic gold by tucking into her favorite sweet passions, cheesecake and bubble tea.

"Yes I will eat a lot tonight," she smiled as she told Agence France Presse of her plans after her final massive 127kg lift eclipsed China's world record holder Liao Qiuyun in the women's 55kg class and gave her country its first gold after 97 years of Olympic competition.

"I mean I've been sacrificing my food, and this is the time to celebrate together with the people who are behind me. So I'm really thankful I can eat now, yes," said the 30-year-old who stands just 5ft 1in tall (1.58 metres).

Diaz is already assured a place in her country's sporting folklore, alongside the likes of Manny Pacquiao, as the only woman from the sprawling archipelago ever to win an Olympic medal when she took a surprise silver in the 53kg class in Rio five years ago.

She had to put on hold her life outside of sport -- her family, her air force career, college studies and managing her weightlifting gym in her home town of Zamboanga on the southern island of Mindanao.

Now she can't wait to go home to her family

"I'm looking forward to enjoy life because I have been in Malaysia for, I don't know, almost two years so I'm really thankful I can go home now and celebrate with my family and the people who support me," she told AFP at the Tokyo International Forum after being presented with her gold medal.

The daughter of a tricycle driver in a poor village near Zamboanga, Diaz has not seen her family since December 2019.

She initially went to train in Malaysia in February 2020 because her coach, Gao, thought it would be better for her as she focused on qualifying for Tokyo.

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

 

For months Diaz and "Team HD" were stuck in an apartment block in the capital Kuala Lumpur where they had to be careful not to crack the tiled floor while training with weights.

But the tireless Diaz still managed to find time to raise money through online training sessions to distribute food packages to poor families back home who were suffering during coronavirus lockdowns.

In October last year, she relocated to the southern coastal state of Malacca where they have been living in a house owned by a Malaysian weightlifting official.

She began using a nearby gym but restrictions were tightened again, forcing her to work out in the house's sweltering open-air carport for the last few months.

Now all the hardship has been rewarded and she will be given a hero's welcome.

"I don't know if I'm a national hero," she told AFP after winning her historic Olympic gold on Monday.

"But I'm thankful that God used me to inspire all the young generation and all the Philippines people to keep fighting during this pandemic." — with David Hicks, AFP

2021 TOKYO OLYMPICS HIDILYN DIAZ
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 10, 2021 - 12:14pm

Monitor major updates as we follow developments in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

August 10, 2021 - 12:14pm

US broadcaster NBC says its Olympics coverage garnered strong ratings on television and streaming despite declines from viewership in prior years.

The NBCUniversal unit says the average television audience for the Tokyo games was 15.1 million. The figure was below that of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The media group says the Tokyo event was "the most streamed Olympics ever" with some six billion streaming minutes and 2.9 billion impressions on NBC's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. — AFP

August 9, 2021 - 12:27pm

Tokyo awakes to a huge bill and soaring coronavirus cases on Monday after pulling off a mid-pandemic Olympics that at times looked impossible and had a mixed reception to the end.

Olympic officials have been predictably bullish, saying the Games offered hope and uplifting moments, and went off without any major coronavirus outbreaks.

"These Olympic Games have been a powerful demonstration of the unifying power of sport," International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach says at his closing press conference. — AFP/Sara Hussein

August 9, 2021 - 7:12am

Greece's Olympic Games water polo team on Sunday said it would donate half the prize money they will receive from Olympiakos football team owner Vangelis Marinakis to wildfire victims throughout the country.

"We want to thank Mr Marinakis from the bottom of our hearts for his generous move. We consider it our duty to help by donating half of the amount to the wildfire victims," team captain Giannis Foundoulis announced in a statement released by the Greek Olympic Committee.

Greece lost the Olympic Games water polo final in Tokyo to Serbia.

Marinakis said he would award the team with 200,000 euros, an announcement from Olympiakos said. — AFP

August 7, 2021 - 2:21pm

Ukraine's Khyziak flattened by Brazil's Sousa in just a minute for the middleweight gold.

August 7, 2021 - 1:14pm

Boxer Carlo Paalam has been defeated by Great Britain's Galal Yafai in the Men's Flyweight final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics via split decision, winning the Philippines another silver medal to elevate the country's best-ever finish at the Games!

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