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Home comes the heroine

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Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, fresh from ending the country’s 20-year futility in the Olympic Games by taking a silver in Rio, returned yesterday afternoon from Brazil to a rousing welcome.

Diaz was on board an Emirates plane that landed at Terminal 3 at 4:50 pm and the 25-year-old lifter was greeted by her parents Eduardo and Emelita as airport personnel and media took their turn taking photos of the Philippines’ newest sporting hero.

A R5-million check is already in the hands of the Philippine Sports Commission and it will be handed over to her during her courtesy call with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City later in the evening.

“I can’t express how I feel,” said Diaz, whose silver was the Philippines’ first medal since the identical silver brought home by Onyok Velasco from the 1996 Atlanta Games.

While the Rio Games is still under way, Diaz called on the five remaining medal hopefuls to do their best to make the country proud.

“Kung nakaya ko, makakaya nyo rin (na manalo),” said Diaz, whose silver was in the 53 kg class.

Diaz is expected to head to her native Zamboanga City today where the city government has put in place a grand homecoming.

Asked whether she is planning to retire, Diaz insists she is eyeing a stint at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the hopes of winning the country’s first gold medal.