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Tuesday , 28 September 2021

The 97-Year Wait: Hidilyn Diaz wins the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal

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It is now time to celebrate, it is time to unite and look ahead. Since 1924, the Philippines has participated in the Summer Olympic Games. A few times Filipino athletes have come close; the closest we ever got was the Silver medal in Tokyo 1964, Atlanta 1996, and Rio 2016. However that all changed when the 4 foot 11 inches dynamo stepped on the weightlifting platform, gripped the bar with her chalk-covered hands and cleanly raised the bar above her head. At that moment, Hidilyn Diaz knew that the elusive Olympic Gold medal was hers. 

Chris Graythen / Getty Images

In Hidilyn’s first two trips to the Olympics (Beijing and London) she did not place at all. In Rio, Hidilyn won Silver, and now she is the first Filipino to win medals at two Olympic games.

The contest was hard as her closest opponent was China’s Liao Quiyun; she was the favourite for the event and a world record holder. The other was Zulfiya Chrinzalo from Kazakhstan, who back in 2012 London Olympics got disqualified for doping and ended up with the Bronze Medal. Diaz won dramatically with a successful final lift of 127kg beating the Chinese weightlifter by one kilogram. Hidilyn’s team were overcome by emotions when they saw the white light from the judges indicating that the lift was successful.

Hidilyn Diaz won the gold medal in Weightlifting 55kg category, breaking the Olympic record, and matched the World Record | Photo credit: Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA, via Shutterstock

This could be a start of something great for Philippine sports; we perform well against our Southeast Asian neighbours. This result hopefully changes the perception that the Philippines, given a chance can play and perform at a higher level. This will lift the country’s spirit and enable the nation to walk a little taller with their head help up high. 

Hidilyn’s victory is also a victory for the nation; this can be seen as a Roger Bannister moment. Roger Bannister was the first person that ran a mile under 4 minutes, it was a feat considered to be humanly impossible. However after Bannister broke that record in 1954, approximately 6 weeks later the record was broken by Australian middle distance runner John Landy; and since then even high school students are running the mile under 4 minutes. 

So what does this mean and how does Bannister’s record relate to Hidilyn’s success? This means that the ceiling has been smashed, what was considered impossible it has now been proven. I hope that there is a young person inspired by Hidilyn’s performance that they get inspired and apply to what they want to do in their life. I hope that the inspiration gets them to act as well as duplicate the result and continue to build momentum. I am hoping that some leaders would see that there is merit in investing in the youth by investing in grassroots programs to help the youth so athletes with potential talents can continue to harness their skills and make headlines overseas and continue to fly the nations flag. 

Hidilyn was also in the Philippine Air Force, salutes during the Philippine National Anthem. | Luca Bruno/AP Images

Hearing Lupang Hinirang (Philippine National Anthem) being played and seeing Hidilyn saluting the flag while it was being raised at an Olympic event with the Gold medal around her neck made us all proud. This will be a type of story that we no doubt will recall and share with others in the future.

Congratulations Hidilyn, it was worth the wait!

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