Monday night was a fulfillment of a promise made in 2016. A promise coming from a Mindanaoan. A Mindanaoan woman to be specific.
This village girl from Zambaonga needed to outdo herself and lift a barbell that is eight kilos heavier than she had ever lifted in her entire life.
From lifting seafood and vegetable baskets to help her farmer dad in her childhood, the Zamboangeña in 2021 was left with no choice but to lift 127 kilos in her final clean and jerk lift.
A kilogram less to tie her Chinese opponent would be a loss as she is three kilos heavier than her foe. She has had enough of the color silver. She promised a gold medal after her runner-up finish in Rio 2016 and she had to fulfill that promise by hook or by crook.
She lifted all the weight of a people that had waited for 97 years for this moment in history. She wobbled, struggled, grunted, with tears and sweat flowing all over her face.
Her ordeal was far worse than her lift. Prior to that, she got red-tagged in a dubious “matrix” of “destabilizers” presented by the presidential legal counsel. She had to stop her college studies for her Olympic training. She said that she had to be separated from her family for more than nine months. Worse, she got stuck in Kuala Lumpur, which distorted her training schedule, because of the pandemic lockdown. She even had to beg on social media for additional funding and private sponsors only for trolls to take her plea as a criticism to the president, consequently making her fear for her life.
On her final jerk, she extended her arms clean, with elbows in. Throwing the barbell forward, she made the impossible lift. In behalf of her people looking for something to be proud of in the midst of a seemingly unsolvable health and economic crisis.
After four Olympics, weightlifting superstar Hidilyn Diaz has cemented her legacy as the greatest Filipino athlete of all time, being the first Olympic gold medallist from this Pacific archipelago by winning the inaugural women’s 55 kilo category Monday night at the Tokyo International Forum.
Her 224 kilo total was enough to edge Liao Quiyun’s 223, a stingy lifter who had previously lifted 227 kilos in the 2019 World Weightlifting Championship, who had twice defeated Diaz.
Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo settled for the bronze medal with 213 kilos.
It was Diaz’s moment of revenge against the Chinese, this time in sports biggest stage.
Diaz began her lifts by overcoming her weakness in snatch, lifting a sizzling 97 kilos on her second lift, tying Liao and just a kilo behind Uzbek Muattar Nabieva.
With the lift, Diaz bested her previous high in snatch by four kilos.
Diaz’s only flop was her third snatch lift at 99 kilos.
Lifting after Liao, Diaz made it a point to best the Chinese by one kilo in her three clean and jerk lifts.
When Liao lifted 118, Diaz upped her at 119.
When Liao lifted 123, Diaz beat her at 124.
Liao opted for a 126 lift in her last try, which she flawlessly made.
Diaz had to one-up her opponent yet again, going to uncharted territory with 127 kilos.
Diaz struck Liao thrice in one-up game. The rest was history.
“I can’t believe I made that. I was surprised,” Diaz said in Filipino after the medal ceremony.
“I don’t know that I had lifted an Olympic record. I can’t believe my name is in the Olympic record,” she said.
The result was a hefty cash incentive when she comes home to the Philippines. But reward money cannot buy the singing of Lupang Hinirang for the first time in the Olympics.
Team Philippines is not done chasing more golds.
Four boxers are still in contention in their respective weight divisions.
Pole vaulter EJ Obiena is raring to win a gold medal on top of a world championship on July 31.
Gymnast Carlos Yulo, receiving bad press after failing big time in his “pet” floor exercise event, is raring to be the first Filipino golden gymnast in the vault finals on August 2.
And if ever they fail, golfers Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan will be the last Filipinas standing, with Saso aiming to repeat her U.S. Open victory in Tokyo.
Whatever the results of her other compatriots are, Diaz has paved the way for a potential golden age in Philippine sports.
Photo courtesy of Tokyo 2020 Twitter