It took a few lifetimes to get here, but the Philippines did it. Finally.
July 26, 2021, marked a new chapter in national sports history, thanks to a tour de force weightlifting performance by Hidilyn Diaz, who won the Philippines' breakthrough Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
The best the Philippines had achieved in its nearly 100-year participation entering the Japan Olympics were 3 silver medal finishes — Anthony Villanueva in boxing in Tokyo 1964, Mansueto Velasco in Atlanta 1996, and Diaz in Rio 2016.
There had been doubts the Philippines would get to this point.
Prior to Diaz's silver finish in the Brazil Olympics, the country had endured a medal-less drought between Sydney 2000 and London 2012.
In many people's eyes, Velasco nearly broke through with a gold in Atlanta, as he looked brilliant against Bulgaria's Daniel Petrov in the final of the light-flyweight division.
But Velasco lost convincingly, 19-6, a result many Filipinos described as a robbery.
Between Villanueva's silver and Velasco's, boxers Leopoldo Serantes (Seoul 1988) and Roel Velasco (Barcelona 1992) won bronze medals.
Prior to Villanueva, the Philippines took home bronze, courtesy of swimmer Teofilo Yldefonso (Amsterdam 1928 and Los Angeles 1932); boxer Jose Luis Villanueva (Los Angeles 1932); high-jumper Simeon Toribio (Los Angeles 1932); and hurdler Miguel White (Berlin 1936).
With Diaz making history — in record-breaking fashion, nonetheless — this could be just the first of a few medals the Philippines can win realistically in Tokyo.
Nesthy Petecio has shown she can be a giant-slayer in women's featherweight boxing.
Yuka Saso, the reigning US Women's Open champion, and dark horse Bianca Pagdanganan could be a make noise in golf, which begins on August 5.
Pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and gymnast Carlos Yulo have the potential, too, to top their respective events.
After Diaz's victory, the proverbial monkey is off Philippine sports' back, and the pressure on any athlete to win gold has been taken away.
That could be key for the rest of Team Philippines competing in Japan to open a medal floodgate.
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