It is interesting to note that the Philippines participated in the Modern Olympic Games for all but one instance. The Olympics from 1896 to 1920 technically did not count as the country was a colony (Spanish during the first, American during the rest). In 1924 the then-Commonwealth of the Philippines made its Olympic debut in Paris. Not until Amsterdam 1928 did the country win one (bronze) medal, and in Los Angeles 1932 win the most (3). Over the decades and following some medal droughts the Philippines gets the arguable distinction of being a nation with the most Olympic medals won without a single Gold. That definitely ended in Tokyo 2020.
And the Filipino people can thank Hidilyn Diaz, age 30, weightlifter and four-time Olympian, for this momentous achievement. CNN Philippines reports that Diaz triumphed in a pool of 14 competitors for the women’s 55-kg weightlifting event this past Monday, July 26, beating favored athletes from Asian countries to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. It is the first medal won by the Philippines in these Games and the first ever Gold medal for the country, which has been gunning for it since joining the Olympiad in 1924.
In the two components of the weightlifting contest, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk, Hidilyn would go on to lift a total 224 kilos, setting a new Olympic record for the event. She also scored a new OR for the Clean & Jerk, where in three attempts she consistently, successfully lifted one kilo more in weights than her closest competition, China’s Liao Qiuyun, for a 127-kilo result. Only in the Snatch did Diaz and Liao tie at 97 kilos max weight, though ultimately the Chinese weightlifter had to make do with Silver. Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan took Bronze, while non-medalist fourth placer Muattar Nabieva set the new Olympic record for the Snatch (98 kilos).
This triumph was the culmination of the Zamboanga City native’s Olympic journey, which began in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing at age 17. While she broke the personal weightlifting record she set in the SEA Games a year earlier, in these Olympics she finished second to last among 12 in the women’s 58-kg event. Hidilyn’s placing in London 2012 was better (12th of 19) but she officially got a “Did Not Finish” result due to three failed Clean & Jerk attempts at 118 kilos. Only in Rio 2016 did she gain her first Olympic medal, Silver. But it was a portent for her future.
As expected, Hidilyn Diaz was the toast of the country for her breaking the Philippine Olympic Gold medal “curse.” Notable people from President Rodrigo Duterte, to Philippine Sports Commission chairman William Ramirez, to her superiors in the Philippine Air Force where she is an Airwoman Sergeant, have congratulated Diaz for her efforts, which is claimed to have been a significant uplift in the national mood. And while her medal ceremony was not presented in front of stands packed with an international audience, Hidilyn’s Gold achievement was all that really matters.
Image from Olympics official webpage