Diaz lifts first gold medal for Philippines in Olympic history

Hidilyn Diaz wins the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal. © Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Hidilyn Diaz wins the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal. © Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Tokyo, Japan, July 26, 2021: The Philippines erupted with “Pinoy Pride” when weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo on Monday night.

The 30-year-old Asian Games champion and Rio 2016 silver medallist produced an astonishing final lift in the clean and jerk section of the women’s 55kg category to overhaul China’s world record holder Liao Qiuyun.

Her last-gasp effort summoned all the experience and determination from her four Olympic Games appearances dating back to Beijing 2008 and brought joy to her homeland.

Diaz, who is from Zamboanga in the south of the Philippines but has spent much of the pandemic training with her team in Malaysia, lifted 97kg in the snatch and an Olympic record 127kg on the clean and jerk for an Olympic record total of 224kg. 

Liao was second with 97kg in the snatch – exactly the same mark as Diaz – and 126kg in clean and jerk for a total of 223kg – just 1kg behind the champion.

Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo recorded 90kg and 123kg for a total of 213kg to finish a distant third for bronze.

Diaz, quite understandably after such a tense night when everything went right for her and her Team HD, celebrated emotionally with her coaches as members of the Philippines delegation inside the Tokyo International Forum waved flags and cheered wildly for their first Olympic champion.

The supporters included the Philippines’ IOC Member, Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski, who had the honour of presenting the gold medal to Diaz on a tray for her to collect and put around her neck.

As the national anthem played for the first time in Olympic history, Diaz saluted as a member of the Air Force while fighting back tears of joy and pride beneath her mask.

Speaking at the official press conference, Diaz commented: “I know that Zamboanga is really proud of me and all of the Philippines is. I did not give up during the pandemic. I am really thankful. Winning the gold medal is a really big thing for me and all of the Philippine people.

“We have not had a gold medal for 60 years. I want to say to the Philippine people that we can do it. We are proud.”