Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz Wins Silver Medal in Rio Olympics, Ends PHL 20-Year Medal Drought

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    RIO DE JANEIRO – A day after three Filipino athletes lost one by one in their campaign, Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz gave the Philippines its first silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games early Monday morning (August 8), sending the Filipinos back home in a frenzy of celebration.

    President Rodrigo Duterte and members of Congress led by world boxing icon and Senator Emmanuel Manny Pacquiao and other leaders immediately hailed Diaz for her feat and are expected to led a hero’s welcome for the medallist when she returns to Manila on August 11.

    With her win, Diaz, 25, an Airman Second Class of the Philippine Air Force and a native of Zamboanga City, ended a 20-year medal drought of the Philippines in the Olympics. She is the first woman Olympic medallist, the first weightlifting medallist and the first winner from Mindanao.

     Hsu Shu-ching of Chinese Taipei won the gold medal with a total of 212 kg at the Olympic Games here, while Diaz copped the silver and the bronze went to Yoon Jin Hee of South Korea.

    Diaz, a veteran of the London and Beijing Olympics, copped the silver medal in the women’s 53-kg division after registering 88 kg. in snatch and 112 kg. in clean and jerk, for a total of 200 kg.

    The Philippines last won an Olympic medal in the Atlanta Games in 1996 when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won silver in boxing.

    With tears welling from her eyes, Diaz was in complete disbelief after she clinched a spot on the podium of the Rio Olympic Games.

     Moments before the awarding ceremony, Diaz shared a video on Facebook where she expressed her deep gratitude to God for the blessing.

    She is heard saying, “Lord, thank you,” numerous times in the over-a-minute video.

    “Thank you, Lord. Kakaiba ka, Lord God. Kakaiba ka,” Diaz said, the first Filipino Olympian to win a medal in a span of two decades.

     Also shown in the video were the gold medalist of the event, Hsu Shu-Ching of Chinese Taipei, and third-placer Yoon Jin Hee of South Korea.

    Diaz’s silver is the country’s third silver medal in the Olympics, and the first outside of boxing.

    Diaz and the handful of Filipinos in the gallery were already celebrating her third-best, bronze-clinching total of 200 kg when China’s erstwhile frontrunner Li Yajun failed in her third and final attempt to lift 126 kg in the clean and jerk and scratched out of the contest.

    Li, who actually tied the Olympic record in the snatch, failed in all three tries at 126.

    Realizing that Li had bungled it, the three-time Olympian Diaz jumped in joy and raised her arms in triumph.

    The country’s first medalist in weightlifting then sought out her coach and top delegation officials.

    “Naramdaman ko ang presence ni God kanina nung bumubuhat ako,” said the 25-year-old Diaz, a native of Zamboanga City.

    “I expected to win the bronze going to this competition, na-shock ako nung sinabi sa akin na na-zero yung China.”

    Diaz said she trained hard for this Olympics, her third straight after stints in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London. She said prior to the competition that this could be her last Olympics and that if she was thinking of a medal then it’s a bronze in her weight class.

    “That’s all I wanted — a bronze medal. But God gave me the silver medal,” said the 25-year-old pride of Zamboanga City, who became the first female athlete from the Philippines to win a medal, of any color, in the Summer Games.

    The silver medal means a cash windfall for Diaz under the government’s incentive program for medalists in the Olympics. Delegation officials said she stood to get P5 million in bonuses.

    Malacañang  joined the Filipino nation in congratulating President Rodrigo Duterte’s fellow Mindanaoan Hidilyn Diaz for ending the Philippines’ 20-year medal drought in Olympics in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

    ”On behalf of a proud nation, we congratulate Hidilyn Diaz for winning the Philippines’ first medal in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games,” Presidential Communications Operations (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said.

    Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said President Duterte is honored and proud of Diaz’s first Olympic medal after two straight field attempts.

    ”We extend our sincerest congratulations and celebrate the end of the medal drought. Truly change has come,” Abella said.

    Before leaving for Rio Oympics, President Duterte inspired the 12-athlete Philippine team by increasing their allowance from US$1,000 to US$3,000 while from US$3,000 to US$ 5,000 to officials.

    Andanar said the story of Diaz is the story of Filipinos who brave life’s difficulties to excel in their respective endeavors even in the international arena of the world’s best competitors.

    ”Hers is about overcoming shyness but for an inspired nation, her road to Rio is a journey of grit, patience and determination which ended a 20-year long medal drought for the Philippines. Congratulations, Hidilyn, our first Olympic medalist from Mindanao,” Andanar said.

    The last time the Philippines won its first medal was in 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games where boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the country’s second silver medal.

    The country’s first ever silver medal was won by another boxer, Anthony Villanueva, in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

    The Philippines has yet to win its Olympic gold medal since it joined the world’s most prestigious sports event in 1924.

    With her inspiring performance, Diaz will receive P5 million cash incentives based on the newly-enacted Republic Act No. 10699 which expanded the coverage of incentives granted to national athletes and coache

    The Philippines has won nine medals in the Olympics, all courtesy of male athletes, since it first participated in 1924. It’s the third silver for the country after boxers Anthony Villanueva and Onyok Velasco win in 1964 and 1996.

    The Philippines has yet to win the gold.

    Diaz said she’s not sure if she would continue competing all the way to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

    “We cannot tell,” said Diaz, who is set to receive P5 million from the Philippine government as her incentive in winning the silver in the Olympics. She is bound to receive more than that when other donors start showering her with gifts.

    When Velasco won the silver in 1996, he received a brand new car and a house and lot from the private sector. Then he quit from boxing and became an actor.

    Diaz said it hasn’t sunk in yet.

    “Hindi ko pa sure. Artista? Hindi ah,” said Diaz.

    “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, who joined the short elite list of athletes to win an Olympic medal for the Philippines.

    Her victory also ended a long drought dating back in 1996 during the Atlanta Olympics where boxer Mansuete “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal in the light-flyweight division. No other Filipino athlete came close to a medal since then.

    At the Riocentro Pavilion 2, the 25-year-old Diaz broke the spell.

    The member of the Philippine Air Force bagged the silver with a total lift of 200 kilos. She has a best lift of 88 kilos in the snatch and 112 kilos in the snatch and jerk.

    Diaz 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 126 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 City, 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 Filipino sports officials at ringside, led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco and chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta, started celebrating as well. The other officials who were there included International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, her predecessor, Frank Elizalde, POC officers Steve Hontiveros and Julian Camacho, and former Philippine weightlifting head Monico Puentevella.

    Diaz received her silver medal with a big smile on her face, joining the two other medalists at the podium. For the first time in 20 years in the Olympics, the Philippine flag was raised during an awarding ceremony.

    “Pinanalo ni Hidilyn yung bronze yan. Yung silver regalo ng Diyos. Walang kapares ang Olympics,” said Cojuangco, adding that he hoped that Diaz’ triumph would be the start of a new chapter in Philippine Sports.

    “I hope this is the ice-breaker,” said Cojuangco, adding that the athletes have President Duterte to thank for.

    It was an historic moment for not only for Philippine sports but for the country in general. The long wait is over, and even before the Filipinos plunged into action here, others aired doubts if the country can win any medal here in Rio.

    Before Diaz’ win, the Filipino athletes launched their campaign and sports officials watched as Ian Lariba of table tennis, Jessie Khing Lacuna of swimming and Charly Suarez of boxing fell out of contention one after the other Saturday.

    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 on his feet.

    “Akala ko talaga hihimatayin na ako,” he said.

    “He (President Rodrigo Duterte) was the inspiration. In the many years I was POC president, it’s the first time we held a send-off for the athletes in Malacanang. We broke the ice,” said Cojuangco.

    “But we’re not yet here in Rio,” he said.

    Light-flyweight Rogen Ladon, another medal bet in boxing, will make his Olympic debut Monday against Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez of Colombia, a 3-0 winner over Brazil’s Patrick Lourenco in last Saturday’s preliminary round.

    Ladon drew a bye in the first round, and only needs to wins to make it to the semis, and also assure himself of a medal. He needs four wins to bring home the gold medal. His opening match is set at 11:3- a.m. Monday.

    The others who are still waiting for their turn are judoka Kodo Nakano in the 81 kg on Aug. 9; swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi, who vies in the women’s 100m freestyle on Aug. 10; golfer Miguel Tabuena from Aug. 11 to 14; marathoner Mary Joy Tabal on Aug. 14; hurdler Eric Cray on Aug, 15; long jumper Marestella Torres on Aug. 16; and taekwondo’s Kirstie Elaine Alora in the +67 kg on Aug. 20.

    “We are not going home empty-handed. We are all very happy about Hidilyn’s accomplishment. But we must remember that we have other athletes who are competing. Let us continue to cheer for them and who knows what might happen,” said Romasanta.

    Diaz is scheduled to arrive Manila on Aug. 11

    Earlier, three Filipino athletes, including one potential medal hopeful, fell out of contention one after the other as action in the 2016 Rio Olympics went full blast on Saturday in different venues in and around the city.

    Ian Lariba of table tennis, who carried the Philippine flag in the opening ceremony Friday evening, was first to fall, losing to Xing Han of Congo in straight sets, 11-7, 13-7, 11-9, 11-7, in a morning match at the Riocentro Pavilion 3.

    “There’s still some things lacking in my game. I can still feel the tension. But I will learn from this experience,” said the 21-year-old Lariba.

    After Lariba’s unsuccessful Olympic debut, swimmer Jessie Khing Lacuna, who’s in his second straight Olympics, failed to keep up with rivals in the men’s 400m freestyle.

    Lacuna, a 22-year-old student at Ateneo, finished sixth among seven swimmers in Heat 2 of his event with a time of 4:01.70. It was way below his personal best of 3:55:34.

    Mack Horton of Australia eventually won the gold in the 400m freestyle with a time of 3:41.55. Not even Lacuna’s best time of 3:55.34 would have kept him close to the eighth and last finalist, Jordan Pothain of France who timed 3:49:07.

    Reporters were not able to talk to Lacuna.

    delegation had hoped for someone to save the day, and top officials trooped to Pavilion 6 of the same convention and exhibit center for the start of the boxing competition.

    Lightweight Charly Suarez made his Olympic debut against Joseph Cordina of Great Britain.

    But Suarez, who will turn 28 on Aug. 14, also took a bitter loss, a split decision (2-1). He won in the eyes of the referee from Turkey, 29-28, but lost in the cards of those from Morocco (29-28) and Uzbekistan (30-27).

    The judge from Uzbekistan gave all three rounds to Cordina, including the second, where Suarez landed a couple of right straights to his opponent’s face. The judges from Turkey and Morocco both had the Filipino winning the second round.

    It was a bitter loss for Suarez, who had hoped to get past Cordina, taller by three inches at 5’9” but one who does not have the boxing skills of the Filipino veteran.

    Competing today for the Philippines and determined to end the 20-year medal drought for the country are weightlifters Hidilyn Diaz (63kg) and Nestor Colonia (56 kg).

    Suarez’s corner, including himself, thought he did enough to win the contest.

    “Sa tingin ko nanalo tayo (I thought we won),” said Pinoy coach Nolito “Boy” Velasco at the Athletes Village a couple of hours after Suarez failed to advance to the quarterfinals.

    Velasco felt that Suarez did well even in the third round and was quite surprised that all three judges gave the round to the British fighter.

    “Halos hindi na sumuntok sa third round ang kalaban (Our opponent hardly threw punches in the third round). Wala namang ipinakita (He didn’t show anything). Pero ganyan talaga (But that’s the way). Puwede manalo, puwede matalo (Win some, lose

    some),” he added.

    Velasco said Suarez did well in the first two rounds that he even ordered the most senior member of the Philippine boxing team to pour in on the final round to make sure he’d win.

    “Ang sabi ko nga kay Charly bombahin na sa third round dahil baka madaya pa tayo,” said Velasco.

    Suarez, who wanted to reach the medal rounds in his first Olympics, said he gave his best inside the ring but had accepted the decision of the judges.

    “Sa tingin ko naman panalo ako (I thought I won). Pero tanggap ko na (But I accept the loss). Magaling din naman yung Great Britain. Mataas at mahaba (My opponent is a good boxer. He’s tall and fights long),” he said.

    A small group of Filipinos based in Rio de Janeiro cheered from the stands, and joined others who booed the decision.

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