TOKYO – Hidilyn Diaz slept no more than two hours after winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s -55 kgs class of weightlifting on Monday night.
“I slept at 5:30 a.m., woke up at 7 a.m. and I still couldn’t believe that I won a gold medal,” Diaz told a virtual press conference from the Tokyo Olympics Village on Tuesday morning. “Good morning, thank you, God.”
Diaz ended the country’s almost a century-old gold medal quest that began in the Paris 1924 Olympics.
“The journey to the Olympic gold medal wasn’t easy, but it was made possible by the people behind Team Diaz, the government, the private sponsors, and the Philippine Olympic Committee [POC] for giving us athletes the opportunity to be here in the Olympics,” the 30-year-old Diaz said.
Diaz lifted 97 kgs in snatch en route to two new Olympic records—127 kgs in clean and jerk and 224 kgs in the total lift—to win the mint.
The pride of Zamboanga City made former Olympic record holder and favorite, China’s Liao Qiuyun look bad in winning the gold. Liao took silver with 223 kgs while Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo bagged the bronze with 213 kg.
Hidilyn Diaz Olympic Gold Medalist
“Here’s the lady that we’ve waited for the past 97 years,” POC President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino told the same online press conference. “
An Olympic first-timer in Beijing in 2008, an injured participant in London in 2012, and a near-gold winner in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. That in a nutshell marked Diaz’s four Olympic sorties made successful by his performance on the competition stage of the massive Tokyo International Forum.
Diaz’s gold upped the country’s haul at the Olympics to one gold, three silver, and seven bronze medals—and in these Games’ medal tally board, at No. 20 behind frontrunners US (9-5-8 gold-silver-bronze), China (9-5-7) and host Japan (8-3-5).
Diaz was emotional while waiting for her turn to step on the podium, the whole country was. She was already in tears when Mikee Cojuangco Jaworksi, the International Olympic Committee’s Representative to the Philippines, handed her medal and the winner’s bouquet.
Tolentino and his secretary-general at the POC, Atty. Edwin Gastanes, and Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and his chief of staff, Marc Velasco, were holding back tears while filming the historic event off stage. And when the Lupang Hinirang was played and the country’s colors were raised for the very first time in Olympic history, all emotions went loose.
“I got goosebumps all over,” Velasco said, wiping away tears.
Diaz’s gold medal is worth a total of P3.3 million in cash—P10 million each from government under the Athletes and Incentives Act, Ramon S. Ang of San Miguel Corp. and Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Smart and PLDT—and a house-and-lot in Tagaytay City courtesy of Tolentino.
On Tuesday, the ante was raised with Megaworld of tycoon Dr. Andrew Tan gifting Diaz a P14 million condominium unit at Eastwood City.
Team Diaz—Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and psychologist Karen Trinidad—stayed long after the venue was cleared, taking selfies and groupies on the stage—along with a handful Filipino reporters who chronicled the most significant feat in Philippine sports history.
“Nothing is impossible, even in this pandemic,” added Diaz in the press conference where she was also joined by chef de mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Gao, Naranjo, and Gastanes.
“We were able to do this amid the pandemic when the risk is there ready to strike anyone of us” she said.
It was already bright in Tokyo when Diaz finally hit the sack at 5:30 a.m. answering calls and messages and trying to get the gold medal-winning accomplishment.
Diaz woke up at 7 a.m. admitting she still had to convince herself that she won an Olympic gold medal the night before.
“I could hardly believe that I won gold,” she said.
Filipino-Japanese Kiyomi Watanabe, meanwhile, lost to Spain’s Cristina Cabana Perez, 1-0, in women’s -63-kg elimination round of judo on Tuesday.