AFTER winning the silver medal in the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, in 2016, much was expected from weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz.
In every competition she participated in since, she was expected to come out on top or at least make a strong showing, something she admitted to have put a lot of pressure on her but nonetheless expressed readiness for.
On Tuesday night at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia, Zamboanga native Diaz proved once again the top-class athlete that she is, delivering the first gold medal for the Philippines by topping the women’s 53 kg weightlifting event at the Jakarta International Expo.
And she did it in such a “dig deep” manner, edging the second-placed athlete to bag the gold.
Ms. Diaz lifted a total of 207 kg to Kristian Shermetova of Turkmenistan’s 206 on the strength of a 115-kg lift in the clean and jerk to overhaul her deficit in the snatch where she lifted 92 kg to the Turkmenistan lifter’s 93 kg.
Ms. Shermetova initially lifted 113 kg in the clean and jerk and tried to salvage the win by attempting to lift 116 kg in her third and final attempt but could not pull it off, handing the victory to Ms. Diaz.
“I am grateful to God that I won the gold medal that all of us Filipinos dream of,” said 27-year-old Diaz following her Asiad gold quest.
She went on to say that in light of the heightened expectations of her to succeed, to be able to deliver accordingly made it all the more satisfying and pride-filled.
“In the Olympics, no one expected me to win a medal. Here at the Asian Games, everyone expected me to win. For two to three months, I was on the edge. I hardly got enough sleep. But I just kept on training and gave my fate to God,” Ms. Diaz shared.
Adding that she hopes her latest success would open the eyes further of people of the potential of the sport of weightlifting as a steady medal source for the country.
“This proves the Olympic gold medal is possible. It can be done — an Olympic gold can be won,” she underscored.
For bagging a gold medal, Ms. Diaz is expected to receive a huge monetary windfall from the incentives on offer for Filipino athletes competing at the Asian Games.
She stands to receive P6 million — P2 million from the Philippine Olympic Committee, P2 million from the government through Republic Act 10699, which expands the coverage of incentives granted to national athletes and coaches, and P1 million each from the Siklab Foundation and the Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Lee Hoong.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, the Philippines was still waiting for the next medal to add to its haul.
Team Philippines was at 14th place in the standings with one gold medal and four bronzes.
The bronze medals were care of the men’s and women’s taekwondo poomsae teams, taekwondo jin Pauline Lopez (women’s -57 kg event) and wushu’s Agatha Wong.
Looking to add to the Philippine medal haul was swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi who qualified for the 200m freestyle finals and wushu women’s sanda athlete Wally Divine who was in the semifinals of the -52kg event.
As of 12 noon on Wednesday, China was still leading in the medal standings with 32 gold, 18 silver and 12 bronze medals followed by Japan (12-18-18), South Korea (8-12-14), Indonesia (5-2-5) and Iran (4-3-5).
Rounding out the top 10 were North Korea (4-1-3), India (3-3-4), Chinese Taipei (3-2-5), Mongolia (2-1-4), and Kazakhstan (1-5-7). — Michael Angelo S. Murillo