Tokyo—For the first time in 97 years, the Philippine national anthem was sung in the Summer Olympic Games.
A five-foot dynamo with a heart as huge as the iron plates she lifts, Hidilyn Diaz set a new Olympic record in the clean and jerk at 127 kgs, and then won the country’s first Olympic gold with a total lift of 224 kilograms in the women’s 55kg weightlifting competitions of the quadrennial games at Tokyo International Forum here on Monday night.
“Pinatunayan ko lang na kaya ng mga Pilipino, walang imposible sa Pilipino,” said the 30-year-old Diaz, dedicating her gold back home to a Filipino nation battered by torrential rains and flooding for a week, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake, and a coronavirus pandemic that claimed the lives of thousands.
A silver medalist in the Rio Olympics in Brazil four years ago, Diaz entered the competitions here as the underdog to world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China.
But Diaz, a Philippine Air Force sergeant, was a woman on a mission. She posted a 97-kg lift in snatch and went on to set the Olympic record in the clean and jerk at 127 kgs for a total lift 224 kgs, sending Liao to the silver and Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo to the bronze medal.
“Hindi ako makapaniwala, na-sorpresa ako na nagawa ko ‘yun. Sa lahat ng pinagdaanan ko, prinepare ako ni God to be strong,” said Diaz.
She first made the Olympics as a wild-card entry in 2008, becoming the first Filipina weightlifter in the quadrennial meet. She returned to the Games in 2012 in London, but did not finish after unsuccessfully completing her clean and jerk attempts.
But for her feat in Tokyo, the Zamboanga City native is expected to receive at least P33 million in incentives from private donors and the government, which congratulated her just a few hours after President Rodrigo Duterte finished his last State of the Nation Address.
Social media was flooded with congratulatory messages for Diaz—the fifth of six children of Eduardo and Emelita Diaz—from government officials, fellow athletes and Olympians, and common Filipinos alike.
Her teammate Elreen Ando will try to use the inspiration of Diaz’s win when she joins the women’s 64kg category on Tuesday.
Earlier, another Filipina, boxer Nesthy Petecio moved to within a win shy of a bronze medal and three wins of gold after scoring a 3-2 split decision victory over top-seed and world no. 1 featherweight Lin Yu-Ting of Chinese Taipei, the biggest stumbling block to her quest for glory in the 54-57kg boxing competitions at the Kokugikan Arena here.
The ambidextrous Petecio’s skills were in full display in the first round, where the champion of the 2019 World Championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia peppered the Taiwanese with power blows from both hands.
“Kaya ko po gamitin ang dalawang kamay ko. Kung saan po nakakatama ako, doon ko po inuulit. Kapag nabantayan na po niya, ililipat ko na po ako sa kabila,” said Petecio.
Lin used her 4-inch height advantage and longer reach to the hilt with nifty counters to erase all the points that Petecio built in the first round. But the Filipina regained the upper hand in the third, where she managed to score crucial points that allowed her to spend the last few moments staying out of trouble.
Petecio shoots for the bronze medal on Wednesday at 10 a.m. (Philippine time) against Colombia’s Yeni Marcela Arias Castaneda, whose biggest claim to fame is her bronze-medal feat in the 2019 Pan American Games.
Meanwhile, Carlo Paalam did not let years of training go down the drain as he hammered a split decision win over Brendan Irvine of Ireland in the men's 48-52kg boxing competitions.
“Ang haba-haba ng training, tapos tatalunin ka lang. Buhos buhos muna,” said Paalam after scoring a 4-1 win against the no. 3 flyweight in the 2017 European Championships.
The Filipino earned the nod of the four judges from Morocco (30-27), Colombia (29-28), Argentina (30-27), and Russia (29-28), except the official from Kazakhstan, who favored the Irish, 29-28.
Paalam takes on Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi on Saturday at 10:48 a.m. (Philippine time). Flissi was the flyweight winner of the 2017 African Championships in Brazzaville, Congo, and the champion of the 2019 Golden Belt in Bucharest, Romania.
Meanwhile, Margielyn Arda Didal ended her campaign in the women’s street skateboarding competitions with a seventh-place finish at the Ariake Urban Sports Park.
Bothered by an ankle sprain, Didal scored just 7.52 in the finals, nearly just half the tally of eventual champion, 13-year-old Japanese wunderkind Nishiya Momiji, who won it all with a total score of 15.26.
"This is for the country. I'm really proud to represent the Philippines," said the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games champion, who was still having fun despite hurting her knee and ankle following several spills during the preliminaries and the finals.
Didal’s stint in the skateboarding finals was a feat in itself as the 22-year-old Cebuana even placed ahead of eliminated skaters Pamela Rosa, 2019 World Skate Champion in Brazil, and 2013 X Games champion Leticia Bufoni.
Skateboarding is one of four sports making their debut in the quadrennial games, along with surfing, sport climbing, and karate.
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