It took a while before the moment sunk in for Hidilyn Diaz.
“I was surprised why the South Koreans were celebrating when everybody thought they were fourth. It 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 the 25-year-old Filipina.
A Gift from God
Diaz was already being congratulated for winning the bronze when the South Korean camp started rejoicing in the warm-up area, saying they had won bronze. Everybody did not expect the Chinese to fail in all three attempts in the clean and jerk.
When she completed her lift at 112, Diaz and her coach, Alfonso Aldanete, started to celebrate. The Zamboanga City native 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 beaming 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 na 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.
A Song for Her Mother
Prior to Li Yajun’s turn to take center stage, Diaz had already contacted her mother in Zamboanga City, who had stayed up late and watched her daughter on the telivision.
Diaz dedicated the win to her mother, Emelita, who had celebrated her 53rd birthday the other day. She shared that they had spoken on the phone again after the victory, and said she was told that her mother had cried watching her win a medal.
It was a historic moment 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 about whether the country can win any medal here in Rio.
By Abac Cordero