Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz wins Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold, to get over P50-M reward

TOKYO OLYMPICS gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz in a file photo

TOKYO/MANILA – After 97 years, the Philippines finally got its first Olympic gold medal after Hidilyn Diaz of Zamboanga City bested the competitors in the Tokyo Olympics and set new Olympic records in the process.

Diaz, 30, who stands only four feet and 11 inches, proudly proclaimed after being awarded the medal that with perseverance and hard work, the Filipino can win the elusive gold medal in the Olympics.

More than P50 million in cash and other incentives, including a house and lot in Tagaytay City and a P14-million condo unit in Quezon City from Megaworld’s Andrew Tan, awaits Diaz when she returns home and everything is settled, apart from presidential and congressional awards. Of the P50 million cash and other rewards, P10 million will come from Manny Pangilinan’s group of PLDT and Smart and Meralco, P10 million from San Miguel Corporation’s Ramon Ang, P10 million from the national government, P5 million from businessman Danny Uy of Seaoil and Dito, P3 million from Rep. Mikee Romero, among others.

Diaz became the first Filipino athlete to win it all in an Olympic event with her victory in the the women’s 55-kg. weightlifting competition at the Tokyo International Forum in Japan on Monday night.

Diaz lifted 97 kgs in snatch en route to two new Olympic records — 127 kgs in clean and jerk and 224 kgs in the total lift — to win the gold medal.

Diaz, a silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, prevailed in a neck and neck showdown with China’s Liao Qiuyun in the clean-and-jerk lift as their battle for the gold went down the wire.

Finishing tied with Diaz in the snatch with a 97-kg. maximum lift, Liao lifted 126 kg. in her final lift, forcing Diaz to go for 127 to steal the top spot from Liao.

Diaz, however, smoothly cleared the 127-kg. lift to win it all, also setting an Olympic record in the process.

Her 224-kg. total is also an Olympic record.

Diaz was emotional while waiting for her turn to step on the podium. She was already in tears when Mikee Cojuangco Jaworksi, the International Olympic Committee’s Representative to the Philippines, handed her medal and another official gave the winner’s bouquet.

Rep. Abraham “Bembol” Tolentino and his secretary-general at the POC, Atty. Edwin Gastanes, and Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and his chief of staff, Marc Velasco, were holding back tears while filming the historic event off stage. And when the Philippine National Anthem “Lupang Hinirang” was played and the country’s colors were raised for the very first time in Olympic history, all emotions went loose.

Team Diaz — Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and psychologist Karen Trinidad — stayed long after the venue was cleared, taking selfies and groupies on the stage —along with a handful Filipino reporters who chronicled the most significant feat in Philippine sports history.

“Nothing is impossible, even in this pandemic,” added Diaz in the press conference where she was also joined by chef de mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Gao, Naranjo, and Gastanes.

“We were able to do this amid the pandemic when the risk is there ready to strike anyone of us” she said.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true. I just want to say that we Filipinos are strong. We Filipinos can compete here at the Olympics. We can do it,” Diaz said after the award ceremonies.

The new “wonder woman” of Philippine sports changed her mind after initially stating that she will retire, pointing out that she will continue to compete for as long as she has the strength to do it, including the Paris Olympics in 2024, to be able to serve as an inspiration to the Filipino youth.

Her advice to younger Filipino athletes: “Please dream high.”

Malacañang joined the entire nation in celebrating the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal since it joined the most prestigious quadrennial event in 1924.

“The Palace congratulates Hidilyn Diaz for bringing pride and glory to the Philippines for winning the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you. Laban, Pilipinas! (Fight Philippines!),” he added.

Olympian Hidilyn Diaz’s historic gold medal win at the Tokyo Games has shown the “immense” potential and strength of Filipino women, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“As the nation celebrates Hidilyn’s victory, I think about the immense potential of the Filipino youth women. Her triumph is proof of the Filipino woman’s strength. Amidst these trying times, Hidilyn has given us so much joy and hope,” Lorenzana said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

He sent his best wishes to Diaz, a Philippine Air Force sergeant when they met online about two weeks before her trip to Japan.

Lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives filed and adopted resolutions congratulating and commending weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz for clinching the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

In filing House Resolution 1982, Philippine Olympics Committee president and House Deputy Speaker Abraham Tolentino said Diaz’s victory in the 55-kg. category in women’s weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics showed that Filipinos can excel at the highest level on the world stage.

Tolentino described Diaz as the Philippines’ “treasure” as she brought “tremendous pride and joy” to the entire country.

“In this year’s Tokyo Olympics, the entire Philippines was in euphoria after Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first-ever gold medal in the Olympics,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Eduardo Villanueva also filed a still-unnumbered resolution that congratulates, commends, and honors Diaz for bringing immense pride, honor, and joy to the nation for her historic performance in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“We celebrate with the entire nation for the historic and unprecedented victory of Hidilyn Diaz, who has finally given the country its first Olympic gold medal,” he said. “She brought the Philippines to the international sports map and restored the world’s respect for the Filipino people.”

“Hidilyn’s victory rekindles a new sense of hope and motivation among Filipino athletes and puts to rest any doubt on the ability of the Filipino spirit to win and conquer any challenge, however insurmountable it may seem, in any international sporting event. Walang hindi kayang marating ang atletang Pinoy! (The Filipino athlete can achieve anything!)” Villanueva said.

In the Senate, Senator Pia Cayetano filed Senate Resolution 805 commending Diaz for bringing home the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal since it joined the quadrennial meet in 1924.

“A ticket to the Olympics is very rare. But the Olympic gold is reserved only for the best. I’d like to believe that when she took her first step and was on the Olympic stage in 2008, at the tender age of 17, that gold was already hung around her neck,” Cayetano said.

Senator Joel Villanueva also filed Senate Resolution 804, which “honor(s) a Filipino Filipina who persevered and prevailed in her well-chosen battle in life.”

“Her victory is a win for our flag and to the entire Filipino nation,” he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto commended Diaz for raising the spirits of 110 million Filipinos.

“With one heave, she hoisted the Philippines for the first time atop the winner’s podium, for which her countrymen waited for almost 100 years,” Recto said.

In her Senate Resolution 798, Senator Risa Hontiveros lauded Diaz for rising above the challenges laid in her path to winning the elusive Olympic gold medal for the country. (Eddie G. Alinea, Jeanne Michael Penaranda, Claire Morales True)