TOKYO (AFP) – Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made history on Monday when she became the first athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic gold medal.
The 30-year-old Rio 2016 silver medalist from the southern city of Zamboanga realised her dream in the women’s 55kg class at the Tokyo International Forum, smashing her personal best to see off world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China who had to settle for silver.
With Liao setting a target of 223kg, just four kilograms shy of her own world record, Diaz was faced with a final clean and jerk of 127kg to win — fully 5kg more than she had ever achieved in competition.
With a massive effort she hoisted the huge Olympic record weight and the tears of joy began to flow even before she dropped the bar to the floor after a triumphant effort.
Liao took the silver, with Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo the bronze.
Diaz was already assured a place in her country’s sporting folklore, alongside the likes of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, as the only woman from the sprawling archipelago ever to win an Olympic medal — her surprise silver five years ago breaking a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines.
Diaz spent the last year and half training in exile in Malaysia because of Covid restrictions, so dedicated was she to claim an unprecedented gold in her fourth and probably final Games.
Diaz’s medal was just the 11th by the Philippines since they first took part in the Olympics in 1924, and now the only gold.
Diaz became just the second athlete from her country to win multiple Olympics medals, joining swimmer Teofilo Yldefonzo who won bronze in the men’s 200m breaststroke in 1928 and 1932.
She stands to receive at least P33 million – P10 million from the government, another P10 million from San Miguel’s Ramon Ang and Manny V. Pangilinan and P3 million from Rep. Mikee Romero.