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Diaz roots for PH athletes

RIO DE JANEIRO – Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who just ended a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines in the Olympics, rallied behind the Filipino athletes who are still in contention in the Summer Games here.

Diaz said the battle is not over yet with seven more athletes seeing action in the coming days, and hoped that any one among them could still deliver a medal and give the Philippines its best finish in the Olympics since 1932.

In that Olympics 84 years ago in Los Angeles, the Philippines won three bronze medals courtesy of Simeon Toribio in men’s high jump, Jose Villanueva in men’s boxing (bantamweight) and Teofilo Yldefonso in men’s 200, breaststroke.

No other time after that did the Philippines win more than one medal in an Olympics.

Diaz, who won the silver medal in the women’s 53 kg class, became the first female athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic medal.

The three-time Olympian from Zamboanga City also gave the country its first Olympic medal in weightlifting, and its first since boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal in Atlanta in 1996.

She called on those still in the running to continue the fight.

“Don’t give up. Continue the fight and give your best,” said Diaz, now the newest toast of Philippine sports, which has long been searching for a new hero in the mold of Manny Pacquiao.

Diaz’ victory last Sunday should help boost the sport of weightlifting in the Philippines. It’s a sport that’s suited for Filipinos, especially in the lower or smaller weight classes.

“It’s not important if this is your first time in the Olympics or your second or third because once you are here, you must give your best,” said Diaz.

“I hope we can still win here,” said Diaz, who called on Filipino sports fans to continue supporting the others who are still in the medal hunt.