Diaz ends 20-year medal drought for Pinoys
AS her countrymen were either in deep sleep, or preparing their breakfast or hurrying up to go to work, a brave lady from far Zamboanga was doing us proud half a globe away, giving us a moment to smile on a rainy Monday.
In her finest performance in a career spanning almost two decades, Hidilyn Diaz won a silver medal in weighlifting in the 31st Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, ending what seemed to be a never-ending heartaches for Filipino athletes in the biggest, grandest sporting spectacle of all.
“Thank you, Lord,” shouted Diaz, a smile on her face moments after achieving the effort that ended the bleeding for the country, which last won a medal in 1996 in Atlanta through boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco.
The effort of the Zamboanga City native came like a whiff of fresh air to her fellow athletes, Team PH officials and Rio-based Filipinos who shouted, smiled, jumped, embraced and exchanged high-fives and low fives in sheer delight to celebrate the silver medal finish that was long, too long in coming.
Can’t blame them.
It took the nation four Olympics to finally obliterate this Olympic ‘virus’ that’s been pestering it since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a low moment that has made Filipino sports fans wonder if the end to the long wait would still come.
In faraway, beautiful Rio, the 25-year-old Hidilyn, bless her heart, provided the answer.
In her long chat with Filipino sportswriters, Diaz, a veteran of the Beijing (2008) and London (2014) Olympics, said she was just thinking of winning a bronze medal in the women’s 53-kilogram division, given the talent of strength of the opposition.
“That’s all I wanted -- a bronze medal. But God gave me the silver medal,” said Diaz, who became the first female athlete from the Philippines to win a medal, of any color, in the Summer Games and the third after Velasco and the late Anthony Villanueva (1964 Tokyo Olympics) to bring home a silver.
What’s next for her?
Is she going for the gold medal in 2020 in Tokyo, she was asked.
“I cannot tell,” came the quick reply from Hidilyn, who stands to receive P5 million from the government as incentive in capturing an Olympic silver. She’s expected to receive more when other donors start showering her with gifts.
“I would have been grateful with a bronze medal because that’s what we were targeting. Masaya na sana ako sa bronze medal,” said Diaz, a member of the Philippine Air Force.
At the Riocentro Pavilion 2 on the fringes of Rio, a silver, not a bronze, was there for the taking.
Diaz finished with a total lift of 200 kilos -- 88 kilos in the snatch and 112 kilos in the snatch and jerk -- 12 kgs behind the gold medal-winning performance of Hsu Shu-Ching of Taipei (110 in the snatch ands 112 in the clean and jerk).
The Filipina failed in her first attempt at 88 kilos in the snatch and then in her last at 91 kilos. In the clean and jerk, she opened up with a good lift at 111 and then the 112 and failed in her last attempt at 117 kilos.
By that time, she was already assured of the bronze.
China’s Li Yajun, who set a new Olympic record of 101 kilos in the snatch, looked assured of the gold. But she could not complete a lift in the snatch and jerk, failing at 123 kilos once and then twice at 126 kilos.
It was a grave tactical error on the part of the Chinese, who could have won the gold without trying to lift 123 or 1126 kilos.
But they were too aggressive, going for the Olympic record without making sure they had won the medal first.
With three failed attempts in the clean and jerk, the Chinese did not win any medal.
Diaz said she was already being congratulated for winning the bronze when the South Korean camp started rejoicing at the warm-up area, saying they won the bronze.
Everybody did not expect the Chinese to fail in all three attempts in the clean and jerk.
“I was surprised why the South Koreans were celebrating when everybody thought they were fourth. In turned out that they had won the bronze. Taipei took the gold instead of the silver and us, the silver instead of the bronze,” said Diaz.
Diaz said she already contacted her mother in Zamboanga City, and thanked her conditioning coach in Manila, Jay Putalan. She also thanked the doctors who are here with the Philippine delegation, Dr. Ferdinand Brawner and chiropractic expert Martin Camara.
Diaz dedicated the win to her mother, Emelita, who celebrated her 53rd birthday the other day. She said they spoke on the phone after the victory, and said she was told that her mother, based in Zamboanga, cried watching her win a medal.
When she completed her lift at 112, Diaz and her coach, Alfonso Aldanete, started to celebrate. Diaz jumped into the arms of her coach. At that time, they knew they were assured of the bronze medal.
The other Filipino weightlifter, Nestor Colonia in the men’s 56 kg class, could not duplicate Diaz’ heroic feat.
After a good lift of 120 kilos in the snatch, the 24-year-old Colonia bungled his next five lifts at 125 kg twice, and then 154 kg thrice in the clean and jerk.
Colonia almost collapsed on stage after his last attempt. Then he complained of dizziness, and was taken to the clinic. He said he thought he was ready to collapse, and it took him some time to recover and get up in his feet.
“Akala ko talaga hihimatayin na ako,” he said.
In Manila, President Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar, congratulated Diaz, saying “hers is (an inspiring story) about overcoming shyness but for an inspired nation, her road to Rio is a journey of grit, patience and determination.”
He also said that Diaz is the country’s first Olympic medallist from Duterte’s home southern region of Mindanao.
Diaz’s victory also has monetary benefits as Philippine law provides a five million peso ($107,000) prize to Olympic silver medallists, Abrenica said.
With reports from PH Media Bureau, AFP