Hidilyn Diaz makes Filipina Olympic history in Tokyo

Before Hilidyn Diaz, no athlete from the Philippines had proven capable of delivering a golden moment on the Olympic stage. This is despite the fact that, except for a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games, athletes from the Philippines have participated in every Summer Olympic since its debut in the 1924 edition.

The entire medal haul accumulated by the Philippines over that span was three silver and seven bronze — the gold medal remained conspicuously absent. Until Diaz stepped up and delivered the goods in remarkable style on Monday, July 26th.

Competing in the women’s 55 weightlifting competition, Diaz defied the odds, defeating world record holder and gold-medal favorite Liao Qiuyun of China by a scant kilogram. And Diaz did so in record-setting fashion, both for herself and for the Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Weightlifting – Women’s 55kg – Group A – Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan – July 26, 2021. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines celebrates after a lift. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

The 55-kilogram weight class was a new event to the Olympics. Much like the world of online sports betting, women’s sports at the Olympics continues to be growing and booming in popularity.

Personal best lift

Whether it was in training or in competition, never in her life had Diaz ever lifted 127 kilograms in the clean and jerk. She’d been attempting and failing to lift that much weight for months.

“I’ve been trying it during training, but I haven’t been able to lift it,” Diaz admitted through a translator to Rappler.com. “Every time I try it, I couldn’t do it, so I cry and I feel that I get the short end of the stick when I fail, but at least I’ve tried it.”

Diaz is also a Staff Sergeant in the Philippine Air Force (PAF) after a promotion received just hours ago following her Olympic achievement. Pictured is Diaz in uniform at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on August 11, 2016. ACE MORANDANTE/PPD

Yesterday, with the world watching and while competing on the biggest sporting stage on the planet, Diaz finally lifted 127 kilograms, enabling her to make personal, Filipino and Olympic history all in one clean and jerk.

Not only was the lift a personal best, since the women’s 55-kilogram weight division was making its Olympic debut, the total lift by Diaz stands as an Olympic record.

Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan failed to lift 125kg in her last clean and jerk attempt, eliminating her from the competition. She’d settle for the bronze medal.

That left Diaz and Liao each with one lift remaining. Going first, Liao, the world record holder in the clean and jerk at 129 kilograms, set the weight at 126 kilograms and successfully executed her lift.

Both Liao and Diaz lifted 97 kilograms in the snatch portion of the competition. Stepping up to the bar, Diaz requested a weight of 127 kilogram. She knew that she had a medal guaranteed and opted to go for the gold, even though she’d never been able to lift that much weight.

She successfully completed the lift and won the Philippines the country’s initial Olympic gold medal.

Once the buzzer went, confirming the lift to be clean, Diaz dropped the bar and burst into tears as other team members raced over to embrace her.

“I did not expect to lift it,” Diaz frankly admitted. “I guess that was God and all the people who prayed for me. I’m thankful to those who prayed and did the novena.”

China was a winner in all three weightlifting events up to this competition. The Chinese were hoping to sweep the gold medals in the eight competitions its athletes have entered. No country can enter more than four men’s and four women’s events in Olympic weightlifting.