TWENTY years after our last Olympic medal, an unexpected heroine has emerged in the Rio Olympics – Hidilyn Diaz of Zamboanga City, winner of a silver medal in weightlifting. No one had mentioned her name in previews of Philippine prospects at the Olympics – not our own Philippine officials and not the foreign sports analysts who had been keeping tabs on the world’s top athletes and their respective records.
Three Filipino athletes fell on the first day of competition – in table tennis, swimming, and boxing. It was on the second day that Diaz competed in the 53-kilogram (kg) division of women’s weightlifting. Her total of 200 kg – 88 in the snatch event and 112 in clean-and-jerk – was good for second place behind the 212 kg of the gold winner from Chinese Taipei.
In quick succession, our other Olympians – in boxing, judo, swimming – competed in their events but lost to their opponents. Our remaining hopefuls are in golf, marathon, hurdles, long jump, and taekwondo. To the very end, we will hope that one or more of them will make it to the podium. But even if no one else makes it, we have our silver medal winner and the Philippines is finally on the list of winners. We are now No. 36 of only 41 medal winners among 206 National Olympic Committees participating in Rio.
Our best bets in this year’s Olympics had been two boxers but both lost in their very first bouts. In his disappointment, the president of the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP), Ricky Vargas, announced he was resigning his post to give way to a new leadership – “to refresh ABAP and inspire a pipeline of next-generation boxers,” he said. Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has expressed interest in leading the association.
Vargas’ move to step down and give way to new leaders was described as virtually unprecedented in Philippine sports.
Leaders of most other sports associations have tended to cling to their posts despite the poor showing of their entries in international competitions. All the other sports associations would do well to examine themselves and see where they have failed all these years. And consider the desirability of following Vargas’ example and allow new leaders to take over for the good of Philippine sports.
In the meantime, let us celebrate the victory of Hidilyn Diaz. She has brought honor to our country and will receive a rousing welcome from a jubilant and grateful nation led by her fellow Mindanaoan – President Duterte – when she comes home from Rio today.