RIO DE JANEIRO—Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, 25, won the Olympic silver medal in the women’s 53-kg division Monday, Manila time, ending a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines, and becoming the first Filipina to win a medal in the Summer Games.
“I would have been grateful with a bronze medal because that’s what we were targeting. I would have been happy with a bronze medal. But God gave me the silver medal,” said Diaz, an airwoman 2nd class with the Philippine Air Force.
The Philippines has won nine medals in the Olympics, all courtesy of male athletes, since it first participated in 1924. This is the third silver for the country after boxers Anthony Villanueva in the 1964 Tokyo Games and Onyok Velasco in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The Philippines has yet to win an Olympic gold.
Diaz said she’s not sure if she would continue competing all the way to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco Jr. said he hoped Diaz’s triumph would be the start of a new chapter in Philippine sports.
Cojuangco credited President Rodrigo Duterte, who held a send-off for the athletes in Malacañang.
“He was the inspiration. In the many years that I was POC president, it’s the first time we held a send-off for the athletes in Malacañang,” said Cojuangco.
Diaz’s total of 200 kg at the Rio Games on Sunday not only ended the country’s 20-year Olympic medal drought, it also made her the first Mindanaoan to win an Olympic medal.
Diaz is a veteran of three Olympics despite her youth, making her debut in Beijing eight years ago. In London four years later, she failed on all her clean and jerk attempts, prompting her to move down to a lighter class for Rio, which had just seven competitors.
Hsu Shu-ching of Chinese Taipei won the gold and the bronze went to Yoon Jin Hee of South Korea.
A cash windfall of at least P5 million from the government and other incentives from private donors await her when she comes home.
Developer 8990 Deca Homes is giving Diaz a house and lot for her accomplishment.
When Velasco won the silver in 1996, he received a brand new car and a house and lot from private donors. Then, he quit boxing and became an actor.
Diaz said her success hasn’t sunk in yet, but dismissed the idea of a movie career.
“Artista? Hindi ah,” said Diaz, who is expected to arrive in the country on Aug. 11.
Diaz bagged the silver with a total lift of 200 kilos, with a best lift of 88 kilos in the snatch and 112 kilos in the snatch and jerk.
Diaz failed in her first attempt at 88 kilos in the snatch and then in her last at 91 kilos. In the clean and jerk, she opened up with a good lift at 111, then made 112 before failing in her last attempt at 117 kilos.
“We are not going home empty-handed. We are all very happy about Hidilyn’s accomplishment. But we must remember that we have other athletes who are competing. Let us continue to cheer for them and who knows what might happen,” said the Philippine team’s head Joey Romasanta.
China’s Li Yajun, who set a new Olympic record of 101 kilos in the snatch, looked assured of the gold. But she could not complete a lift in the snatch and jerk, failing at 123 kilos once and then twice at 126 kilos.
It was a grave tactical error on the part of the Chinese, who could have won the gold without trying to lift 123 or 126 kilos. But they were too aggressive, going for the Olympic record without making sure they had won the medal first.
With three failed attempts in the clean and jerk, Li did not win any medal.
Taipei’s Hsu Shu-Ching eventually won the gold with a total lift of 212 (100 in the snatch and 112 in the clean and jerk). South Korea’s Yoon Jin Hee benefited from the Chinese blunder because instead of being fourth she won the bronze. Yoon had a 199 total (88-111).
Diaz said she was already being congratulated for winning the bronze when the South Korean camp started rejoicing at the warm-up area, saying they won the bronze. Nobody expected the Chinese to fail in all three attempts in the clean and jerk.
“I was surprised why the South Koreans were celebrating when everybody thought they were fourth. It turned out that they had won the bronze. Taipei took the gold instead of the silver and we, the silver instead of the bronze,” said Diaz.
Diaz said she already contacted her mother in Zamboanga City, and thanked her conditioning coach in Manila, Jay Putalan. She also thanked the doctors who are here with the Philippine delegation, Dr. Ferdinand Brawner and chiropractic expert Martin Camara.
Diaz dedicated the win to her mother, Emelita, who celebrated her 53rd birthday the other day. She said they spoke on the phone after the victory. She was told that her mother, based in Zamboanga City, cried watching her win a medal. With John Paolo Bencito and Macon Ramos-Araneta
When she completed her lift at 112, Diaz and her coach, Alfonso Aldanete, started to celebrate. Diaz jumped into the arms of her coach. At that time, they knew they were assured of the bronze medal.
Diaz received her silver medal with a big smile on her face at the winners’ podium.
For the first time in 20 years in the Olympics, the Philippine flag was raised during an awarding ceremony.
The Palace congratulated Diaz for winning the Olympic silver.
“The Philippines and the President are honored and proud of Hidilyn Diaz’s silver medal at the Olympics. We extend our sincerest congratulations and celebrate the end of the medal drought. Truly change has come,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
In a separate statement, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Diaz’s road to Rio was a journey of grit, patience and determination. With John Paolo Bencito and Macon Ramos-Araneta