A golden moment for the Philippines

The biggest and best news of the moment is the Philippines having bagged the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. The news was delivered by our very own Olympian – Hidilyn Diaz.She beat China for the top podium finish in the 55kg category of the weightlifting competition. Indeed, the Filipino can. After 97 years, this is the first gold medal for the country at the Olympics.

The path to gold for Hidilyn has been marked by many victories and an unrelenting passion for the sport. Most recently, the silver medal that she won at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and the gold that she bagged at the 2018 Asian Games could be seen as preludes to her greatest moment at the Tokyo Olympics. A 30-year old, Philippine Air Force Sergeant (soon to be promoted to Captain due to her win)  and four-time Olympian who hails from Zamboanga City was destined for history.Hidilyn Diaz not only won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines; she also set an Olympic record for her combined lift of 224 kg – besting the Chinese contender by one kilogram.This was, undoubtedly, a big double win.

News of Hidilyn’s win reverberated across the country, with social media adding untold levels of hype and euphoria. The only comparable moment in sports in recent historycould arguably be when Manny Paquiao downed his opponent and had his hand raised in victory in the boxing ring. As of this writing, other potential victories lie ahead. On the heels of Hidilyn’s big finish is the prospect of another medal by Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio. She qualified for the finals in the women’s featherweight division. As well, the Philippines is pinning its hopes on Carlos Yulo in the men’s vault event where he qualified for the finals.

Of course, other athletes also carry the hopes of the Filipino nation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Yuka Saso is another gold medalhopeful when she competes in golf, following her dramatic win at the US Women’s Open – the first ever for a Filipina. Ernest John (EJ)Obiena is also aiming to bring home a medal in the pole vault race. He holds the Philippine national record at 5.85 meters but he has a high hurdle to beat world number one, Armand Duplantis, whose personal best is at 6.18 meters.

Indeed, news of wins, potential wins and the sheer passion of Filipino Olympians competing in Tokyo is absolutely welcome for a country that has seen rains drench the nation for 10 days and running. It comes amid rising fears of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 and the potential of another eruption by Taal volcano. It brings hope and a much needed wave of national pride thataffirms that, yes, the Filipino can triumph even in the face of tremendous adversity.

With the win of Hidilyn Diaz, a grateful nation has showered her with gifts of appreciation. All of them are welcome and truly much-deserved. In local Filipino parlance, many might say “sana all”. It is a colloquial expression for a wish that good fortune or blessings come to all.

My reflections of this historic moment are that, one, the Filipino is a truly gifted and talented people.  This win demonstrates our ability as a people to persist against the greatest odds, armed only with our faith and an abiding belief that if we work hard, we can reach untold heights. We are undaunted by challenges or suffering; we will overcome the greatest difficulties to survive and emerge victorious – for family, friends, the nation and God. Ironically, self aggrandisement is not what drives us. Rather, we revel in the collective and shared celebration of success.

Having said that, it causes us to take a step back and consider how much better we can do if we are given the opportunity to prepare. This is my second point of reflection. With all the plaudits and gifts thatare being given to Hidilyn after her win, we wonder how much sooner this might have happened if we gave the same – or more – in preparation for the Olympics or any competition for that matter. After all, there is the universal law of cause and effect. Every action has a corresponding reaction. If we give the plaudits and incentives up front, we inspire many to greatness and we set them up to succeed. This is the key. Surely, rewards for winning are important but rewards for preparing are even more so.

Many are eager to ride the wave of victory. I hope, however, that there are more who join the effort to pave the path to glory.