Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made history on Monday when she became the first athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic gold medal.
The 30-year-old Diaz, 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallist from the southern city of Zamboanga, realised her dream in the women’s 55kg class at the Tokyo International Forum, smashing her personal best to see off world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China who had to settle for silver.
With Liao setting a target of 223kg, just four kilogrammes shy of her own world record, Diaz was faced with a final clean and jerk of 127kg to win — fully 5kg more than she had ever achieved in competition.
With a massive effort she hoisted the huge Olympic record weight and the tears of joy began to flow even before she dropped the bar to the floor after a triumphant effort.
Liao took the silver, with Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo the bronze 10kg adrift of the top two.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream, come true,” Diaz told AFP 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 was already assured a place in her country’s sporting folklore, alongside the likes of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, as the only woman from the sprawling archipelago ever to win an Olympic medal — her surprise silver five years ago breaking a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines.
So many sacrifices Diaz spent the last year and a half training in exile in Malaysia because of Covid restrictions, so dedicated was she to claim an unprecedented gold in her fourth and probably final Games.—AFP