It was a joyous finale at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics for weightlifter, Hidilyn Diaz, whose successful run in the women’s 55kg category has ended the Philippines’ 97-year wait for a gold medal at the Summer Games.
The gold-winning Diaz was overcome with emotion after her victory as the Filipino Air Force servicewoman made history for her country. Her feat was immediately met with excited congratulations from countryman and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.
To reach gold, the 30-year-old needed to get over the challenge posed by China’s Liao Qiuyun in her final lift. She accomplished this with a personal best lift to see a 97-year-old race to get a first gold medal come to an end for the Philippines since they first first appeared at the Games in 1924.
It was an improvement of a personal growth cycle for Diaz. She became a national hero after ending the Philippines’ 20-year medal drought with a silver medal in the 53kg class at Rio 2016.
Diaz improved upon the 11 medals that the Philippines have in their Olympic history through a tough and daunting process. She needed a final clean and jerk of 127kg to win, which was 5kg more than she had ever managed to lift in the competition so far.
Her tears of accomplishment burst through her eyes before she even dropped the bar and she cried again as she stood on the podium and saluted her country’s flag. She was the only woman from the Philippines to have ever won an Olympic medal and had become the first to win gold and only the second athlete from her country to win two medals.
She was still ecstatic when she told the press: “It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true. 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.”
“I’m looking forward to enjoying life because I have been in Malaysia for, I don’t know, almost two years, so I’m really thankful I can go home now and celebrate with my family and the people who support me.”
Her Chinese opponent, who narrowly missed out on gold, Liao heaped praise on her rival also adding: “I really respect Diaz as an opponent because she did the best she could, in fact better than that and that is the ultimate. She did a better job and it is nice for all the people that were supporting her.”