‘This proves we can do it:’ Hidilyn Diaz wins 1st Olympic gold for PH | Inquirer Sports
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‘This proves we can do it:’ Hidilyn Diaz wins 1st Olympic gold for PH

The weighlifting wonder from Zamboanga City defies the odds as her long road to Tokyo reaches a climax and ends the nation's decades of frustration on the Olympic stage.
By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:10 AM July 27, 2021

TOKYO — They will talk for ages about this day, perhaps forever, the day Hidilyn Diaz wrote history. Herstory. Our story. The Filipino weightlifting star delivered the country’s first Olympic gold ever in dramatic fashion on Monday, squeezing past a reigning world champion in the Tokyo Games here and replenishing an entire nation’s belief in itself.

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Minutes after clinching the medal that had eluded the country for almost a century, Diaz made sure the meaning of her victory wouldn’t get lost in the din of the celebration.

This wasn’t just about personal glory or the looming windfall attached to her feat.

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“This proves we can do it,” she told journalists at Tokyo International Forum. “They said this was impossible. I thought this was impossible. But the Filipino can do it. We just have to believe.”

She had the right amount of faith in herself to pull it off, staring down formidable Chinese foe Liao Quiyun—the world record holder in the 55-kg division — in a tense you-or-me showdown before finally assembling a pair of Olympic records on the way to the breakthrough medal.

“I wasn’t aware that I was making Olympic records and I can’t believe that my name is in the Olympic record books,” Diaz said.

Diaz totaled an Olympic record 224 kilograms to nip Liao by one after both athletes’ coaching staffs engaged in a chess match of submitting weights.

‘This is worth it’

Diaz lifted a record 127 kg in the clean and jerk, which was also an Olympic record. Liao lifted before her and cleared 126 to forge ahead by two kilograms. But Diaz still had one lift left and went for the win. When she cleared her weight, she dropped the barbell and exploded in a victorious shriek.

“I went through a lot to get here. The pandemic, everything,” Diaz said. Then, holding her medal, she added: “This is worth it.”

“Proud to be Pinoy!” she screamed.

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Liao settled for silver with a 223. Diaz and Liao had turned the fight for the gold into a showdown between them that bronze winner Kazakhstan’s Zulfiya Chinshanlo finished with a distant 213 kg.

HERSTORY MAKES HISTORY From a silver finish in the 2016 Games, Hidilyn Diaz defies the odds as her long road to Tokyo reaches a climax on Monday night. “They said this was impossible. I thought this was impossible. But the Filipino can do it. We just have to believe,” she says after her dramatic victory against a highly touted Chinese rival. —REUTERS

“To all those who supported me, thank you so much for believing in me,” Diaz said. “During those times when I wanted to give up because of the hardships I went through, we were able to see through the challenges.”

Flaunting swag and confidence in the way she walked into every lift and the way she strutted off to the backstage after clearing her targets, Diaz set the early pace at 97kgs, which matched the Olympic standard. Liao also had 97kgs for her snatch.

The 55 kg division for women is a new weight class with no records yet.

But Uzbekistan’s Muattar Nabieva set the record immediately after, lifting 98 kg to take the lead going into the clean and jerk. Diaz nearly set three Olympic records for the event but she missed her attempt at 99kgs.

Didal bows out

Earlier in the day, Margielyn Didal finished seventh out of eight finalists in street skateboard, ending her Summer Games stint without a medal but with the respect of her peers.

Fighting through an apparent ankle sprain, Didal nailed just one of her five tricks in the final for a total score of 7.52 at Ariake Sports Park.

Didal’s only successful landing was her second trick wherein she completed a nosegrind for a score of 2.97. Already limping at the end of the runs, Didal was in visible pain after her third trick.

Japan’s 13-year-old star Nishiya Momiji captured the women’s gold with a total score of 15.26 while Brazil’s Rayssa Leal took the silver courtesy of her 14.64 performance.

Nakayama Funa settled for the bronze with a 14.49 total.

Ranking as high as third in the preliminaries, Didal survived a nerve wracking wait and watched chasers like Belgium’s Lore Bruggeman falter.

But perhaps the biggest break Didal, who scored 12.02, got was the shocking fall of highly fancied Brazilians Pamela Rosa and Leticia Bufoni.

Rosa, the world No. 1, dropped to 10th place while Bufoni, a former world No. 1 currently ranked fourth, finished ninth.

Didal eventually qualified as the seventh placer in the preliminaries.

Only the top eight skaters after the classification round advanced to the finals.

The country’s boxers continued their march at Kokukigan Arena here, keeping alive the country’s hopes for medals.

‘Stuck to tactics’

Nesthy Petecio moved a win away from securing a medal after taking down top-ranked Lin Yu-Ting of Chinese Taipei.

“She stuck to the tactics, without overcommitting,” said coach Don Abnett. “[She was] getting into her punching range, getting her opponent to lead off and then can her with one or two punches or combinations.”

In a close fight that had a sparse Filipino audience, mostly sports officials, holding their breath, Petecio dominated the first round, got lured into a deadlock after two and then masterfully chalked up crucial points in the third without surrendering anything to seize the victory.

“Coach Boy [Velasco] was telling me that we were ahead and I just had to take care of the leads,” Petecio said.

A win by Petecio in the quarterfinals will assure her of at least a bronze medal.

“Let’s just take this step by step,” Petecio said.

Meanwhile, Carlo Paalam coughed up a split decision victory over Ireland’s Brendan Irvin later in the day despite a near-crucial miscommunication with his team.

Taking the lead with laser-like counterpunching, Paalam thought he was trailing and switched to toe-to-toe boxing against the taller Irvin.

“Carlo was told the score was 5-nil and he thought it was 5-nil the other way,” Abnett said. “He threw caution to the wind and when he started to trade punches, that allowed his opponent to get back into the fight.”

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