. . . And Diaz does it in Olympic-record style
Many thought this day would never come.
But almost 100 years since the country debuted at the Olympics the Philippines finally secured a gold medal in the quadrennial meet as Olympic veteran Hidilyn Diaz reached the top podium in the women’s 55kg of weightlifting in Tokyo on Monday.
Diaz, predicted to give the country another Olympic medal, bested 8 other competitors in her category, including world-record holder Liao Qiuyun of China, when Diaz lifted an Olympic record of 224 kilograms on Monday.
Liao settled for silver with 223 kilograms but went head-to-head with Diaz in the clean-and-jerk round, a case of one-upmanship that resulted in a dramatic finish.
Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan took the bronze after tallying 213kg.
"It's unbelievable, it's a dream, come true," Diaz, 30, told Agence France-Presse moments after the Philippines Air Force woman shed more tears on the podium as she saluted her flag and sung the national anthem.
"I want to say to the young generation in the Philippines, 'You can have this dream of gold too'.
"This is how I started and finally I was able to do it."
Diaz started strong in the competition, lifting 94kg and 97kg as her first two attempts in snatch. She almost had a chance to take the lead after trying 99kg in her final snatch attempt but failed to do so.
Muattar Nabieva of Uzbekistan led in the snatch after clearing 98kg in her third attempt.
In clean and jerk, Diaz stole the lead spot when she lifted 119kg in her first attempt. She then set an Olympic record with 124kg in second attempt.
Liao reset it at 126kg, but Diaz gambled at 127kg in her final attempt to eventually end the gold medal drought of the country in the Olympics.
This is the second Olympic medal of Diaz, who is competing in her fourth straight Olympics, after taking home silver in the 2016 edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Only swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso has won more than one Olympic medal, a pair of bronze in the 200 meters breaststroke in Amsterdam 1928 and Los Angeles 1932.
Five years ago, the Zamboanga City weightlifter ended the 20-year Olympic medal drought of the Philippines, becoming the first Filipina to win a medal in the biggest sporting event in the world.
Before 2016, silver-medalist boxer Mansueto Velasco in Atlanta 1996 was the last Filipino to hit the podium.
In 2018, Diaz also made history at the Asian Games as the first Filipino weightlifter to win gold there.
She also finished first in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila and clinched bronze at the 2019 World Championships.
The first time the Philippines joined the Olympics was in 1924 when sprinter David Nepomuceno was the lone athlete representing the country.
Since then, Filipinos had won 10 medals, including 3 silver medals, courtesy of Anthony Villanueva in Tokyo 1964, Velasco and Diaz, and 7 bronze.
Ahead of these Tokyo Games, the feeling was this was the national team that could hit pay dirt finally, given the thorough preparations, the experience, and the winning track record of many of the 19-strong Team Philippines.
Diaz, an unknown 18-year-old prospect when she debuted in the Olympics in Beijing 2008, fulfilled that destiny and now she will forever be part of national history.
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