Herstory made: Hidilyn Diaz breaks Philippines’ Olympic gold dry spell

Nelson Beltran - Philstar.com
Herstory made: Hidilyn Diaz breaks Philippines� Olympic gold dry spell
The Philippines' Hidilyn Diaz competes in the women's 55kg weightlifting competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo International Forum in Tokyo on July 26, 2021.
Chris Graythen / Pool / AFP

TOKYO (First published July 26 at 9:52 p.m.) Hidilyn Diaz promised a show to remember. And she did just that.

Diaz came through with a great display of strength, courage and determination, and made history in finally ending the country’s long, long search for the first Olympic gold medal with a lift for the ages.

TRACKER: Hidilyn Diaz at the Tokyo Olympics

The Zamboanga City pride beat Chinese Liao Qiuyun in a dramatic showdown with Olympic-record-setting marks to rule weightlifting’s women’s 55kg category in the XXXII Olympiad at the Tokyo International Forum.

She cleared a 127kg in her final lift in clean and jerk and finished with a total of 224 – both going down as Olympic marks.

Saluting the flag while standing straight atop the podium, the Air Force officer shed tears of joy as the country finally heard the national anthem being played in the Quadrennial Games.

It was the first Olympic gold for the country since sprinter Jose Nepomuceno competed as a lone Philippine participant in the 1924 Games in Paris.

Carrying the hopes of the nation on her shoulders, Diaz didn’t disappoint, improving her silver-medal feat in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She bagged the Holy Grail in the world’s biggest sporting showpiece at 30.

“Grabe si God. Akala ko imposible, akala ko hindi kaya ng Pinoy, pero ibinigay sa atin ni God,” said Diaz shortly after the awarding ceremony.

“Hindi ko inakala, tapos eto winner tayo at Olympic record pa,” added Diaz in winning the gold that would be worth more than P30 million in incentives at home.

It’s a new dawn, new day in Philippine sports with Diaz surpassing the silver-medal performances of boxer Anthony Villanueva in the previous Tokyo Games in 1964, another boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco in Atlanta in 1996 and her own feat in the previous games in Rio.

She achieved it in her make-or-break try at 127, beating by one both the 126 in clean and jerk and the 223 total of the Chinese silver-medalist.

Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo pocketed the bronze with a total of 213 (90 in snatch and 123 in clean and jerk).

The evening championship session, featuring nine participants, was led by Uzbek Muattar Nabieva in the snatch but boiled down to a one-on-one duel between Diaz and the Chinese in the clean and jerk.

Nabieva had a 98 and Diaz and Liao both had 97 in the snatch, with Diaz unsuccessful at 99.

Then the gritty Pinay first went for a 119 in the clean and jerk then a 124, but her bid hung in the balance as Liao got a 126 in her final lift.

But Diaz refused to give up.

Everyone held their breath as Diaz went for a 127. And the hall erupted to cheers when the Pinay did it.

With Diaz’s new feat, the Philippines improved its all-time Olympic medal tally to one gold, three silvers and seven bronzes.

Diaz is now easily the most accomplished Philippine Olympian. She’s not just a gold medal winner but a multi-medal winner – the first for the Philippines since swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso won back-to-back bronzes in 1928 and 1932.

The historic day for Team Philippines was also marked by Nesthy Petecio’s Last Eight entry in boxing, Carlo Paalam’s triumphant Olympic debut also atop the ring and Margielyn Didal’s proud seventh-place finish in skateboarding’s street event.

Petecio moved within a win of the medal play in women’s featherweight as she stood her ground versus Taiwanese top seed Lin Yu-ting in their much-anticipated duel, pounding out a tough 3-2 victory.

Quicker and more accurate in exchanges, Paalam beat Ireland’s Brendan Irvine in their men’s flyweight Round-of-32 showdown.   

Meanwhile, another weightlifter Elreen Ando and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe hope to ride the momentum as they chase their own dreams today.

Swimmer Remedy Rule will be back in the Tokyo Aquatic Centre, competing in the 200m freestyle after vying in her first event, 100m butterfly on Saturday. Fil-Kiwi Luke Gebbie also plunges in the pool, competing in the 100m freestyle.

Over at the Sea Forest Waterway, rower Cris Nievarez races in the classification in men’s single sculls.

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