Philippines bags 1st medal in 20 years

Philippines bags 1st medal in 20 years

August 09, 2016
Philippines’ Hidilyn Diaz celebrates during the 53kg weightlifting event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Sunday. — AFP
Philippines’ Hidilyn Diaz celebrates during the 53kg weightlifting event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Sunday. — AFP

MANILA — Hidilyn Diaz sprang a major surprise in the Philippines by winning a weightlifting silver medal in Rio — the country’s first Olympic medal for 20 years, officials said Monday.

Sports analysts in the Philippines had not expected the 1.54-meter (5ft 1/2in) tall Diaz to bag a medal at the 2016 Games after coming up empty in 2008 and 2012 games.

“We had high hopes with other sports. So (Cruz’s medal) is a surprise. A lot of people didn’t expect she would take a medal,” said Ronel Abrenica, executive director of the Philippine Sports Commission.

“I was watching her before. I saw her sincerity and determination. You could see it in the way she talks. She was determined to win. She had the fire in the belly. Before she set off (for Rio), she told me, ‘at least, I can get a bronze’. So this (silver) is a bonus,” said Abrenica.

Diaz took the silver in the 53kg class, the first ever by a Filipino weightlifter.

It was also the first Olympic medal for the Southeast Asian nation since boxer Mansueto Velasco took a silver in the 1996 games.

The two Filipino boxers in the 13-member contingent were considered to have the best chances, as boxers had won five of the country’s previous nine Olympic medals, sports analysts had said.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar, congratulated Diaz, saying “hers is (an inspiring story) about overcoming shyness but for an inspired nation, her road to Rio is a journey of grit, patience and determination.”

He also said that Diaz is the country’s first Olympic medalist from Duterte’s home southern region of Mindanao.

Diaz’s victory also has monetary benefits as Philippine law provides a five million peso ($107,000) prize to Olympic silver medalists, Abrenica said.

Like other Filipino sports heroes, such as boxing hero Manny Pacquiao, Diaz can also likely count on lucrative commercial offers once she returns home, he added.

Hsu Shu-ching claimed the gold in the event for Taiwan.

Hsu finished second at London 2012 but the winner, Zulfiya Chinshanlo, tested positive in a recent reanalysis of samples and is suspended.

Although Chinshanlo is Chinese she switched nationality to Kazakhstan, the nation with the worst doping record in weightlifting in recent years.

Her title will be taken from her when the legal process is complete and Hsu will be promoted to first place.

Taiwan rewards its Olympic medalists well and that promotion would earn Hsu about $140,000.

Yoon Jin Hee of South Korea took the bronze.

August 09, 2016