Hidilyn Diaz wanted nothing else but the gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a dream she long aspired for since her first go-round in 2008.
Thirteen years later, the Zamboanguena weightlifter delivered just that, lifting her way to immortality by winning the Philippines’ first ever gold medal in the quadrennial showpiece.
By hoisting an Olympic record of 127 kg in the clean and jerk that led to another record of 224 kg total and win the women’s 55 kg category, Diaz ascended to the pantheon of Philippine sports greats as she ended the country’s near-century craving for gold since it first sent trackster David Nepomuceno in Paris for the 1924 Olympiad.
The historic feat pulled off by the 30-year-old Diaz easily put her as the top achiever of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) for the month of July and in a strong contention for the prestigious Athlete of the Year award being handed out by the country’s oldest media organization.
Diaz’s monumental accomplishment gave the other Filipino athletes in the Tokyo Games a much needed inspiration to compete and complete the country’s best finish ever in the Olympics.
Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam won a pair of silver for Philippine boxing’s first ever Olympic medal since Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco bagged the same medal color in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Petecio did it in the women’s featherweight class, while Paalam in the men’s flyweight.
Eumir Felix Marcial made it a triple kill as the Filipino middleweight added a bronze to the national boxing team’s campaign, which enjoyed its finest performance yet in the quadrennial meet.
The rest of the Philippine delegation also made their presence felt as skateboarder Margielyn Didal made the finals and finished seventh in the women’s street competitions, and so did gymnast Caloy Yulo in the men’s vault finals, and EJ Obiena in the medal round of the men’s pole vault.
Reigning US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Juvic Pagunsan were also in the thick of the fight in golf competitions, rower Cris Nievarez advanced in the quarterfinals of the men’s single sculls, while boxer Irish Magno, weightlifter Elreen Ando, taekwondo jun Kurt Barbosa, swimmers Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule, shooter Jayson Valdez, sprinter Kristina Knott, and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe made good accounts of themselves in their Olympic debuts.
Outside of the Tokyo Gams, other Filipino athletes also shone in the international stage.
Obiena, 25, topped the Taby Stavhoppsgala Street Pole Vault in Sweden, beating 2016 Rio De Janeiro gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil and Andrew Irwin of the USA for the gold.
The victory by the Filipino pole vaulter, who was ranked no. 6 in the world going to Tokyo, came just two days after he reset the Philippine record with a jump of 5.87 meters to clinch the silver in the Irena Szewinska Memorial Bydgoszcz event in Poland.
Meanwhile in tennis, Alex Eala’s meteoric rise continues after winning both the singles and doubles girls’ titles of the JA Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan, Italy.
The Filipina teener and American partner Madison Sieg beat the pair of Croatian Lucija Ciric Bagaric and Sofia Costoulas of Belgium, 6-4.4-6, 13-11, in the doubles finals and add the trophy to her collection after earlier topping Czech Republic’s Nikola Bartunkova, 6-3,6-3, in the singles finals.
Following the twin feat, Eala rose to no. 2 in the ITF girls junior players ranking.