JAKARTA—Tears blurred Hidilyn Diaz’s sight as she saluted the Philippine flag when the Lupang Hinirang was played for the first time in the 18th Asian Games on Tuesday night after the Air Force servicewoman clinched the country’s first gold medal here.
Once her eyes dried, she had no trouble focusing on her next goal: Tokyo and the future of the sport in the Philippines.
“It can be done, an Olympic gold can be won,” Diaz told scribes in Filipino after her golden Asiad moment that made her richer by P6 million, the total cash pot—so far—for gold medalists here.
In Manila, the Palace had hinted that Diaz could be up for more financial windfall after her performance caught President Duterte’s attention.
“So the President is very elated with her victory and even said that she (Diaz) is his soldier,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
Diaz defeated Turkmenistan’s Kristina Shermetova in the snatch and clean and jerk events of the women’s 53-kilogram finals—where a lot of gamesmanship was involved.
“We knew that the clean and jerk is Hidilyn’s event,” coach Tony Agustin told scribes. “That’s why we had her (Diaz) attempt 115 after Shermetova lifted 113.”
“I knew I won the gold when she (Shermetova) had a bad lift [in the clean and jerk] and the coaches started jumping for joy,” Diaz said after the Turkmenistan bet couldn’t clear 115.
But the Olympics will be a grander, tougher stage. And counting on her opponent to fail won’t cut it out when she makes her final foray into the Summer Games in Tokyo 2020.
Diaz hopes to continue training with Chinese mentor Gao Kaiwen, who spent two months restructuring her technique.
“That change in technique has given me even more confidence,” Diaz was quoted by AFP as saying. “I’m really confident of [lifting more] because I was able to lift 115kg in training.”
There’s more at stake for her when she aims to end a Filipino gold drought in the Olympics.
Diaz wants to exit from her career with a bang, hoping that her influence and cash bounty will help raise the profile of her sport—and help young hopefuls.
“My main goal is to help out kids in my hometown and realize their dream in weightlifting,” she told AFP. “This sport could change their lives and hopefully, they could become just like me in the future.” —WITH REPORTS FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDANO, AFP