After a century of heartbreaks, the Philippines’ journey to Olympic glory is recounted.
Except for the American-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Philippines has competed in every edition of the quadrennial meet since joining in 1924.
After nearly a century of waiting, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz took first place in the 55-kilogram division and set an Olympic record by lifting a total of 224 kilos in two successful lifts.
Throughout the event, Diaz was up against China’s Liao Qiuyun, who had previously held the Olympic record in the same event.
China had two top contenders in Liao Qiuyun and Li Yajun, both of whom could have competed in that category, but chose the then-record holder for the event due to the latter’s previous blunders while competing against Diaz.
In a series of tweets, CrossFit coach Michael “Bugs” Estipona noted this as well as Liao’s tactic of lifting very light weights.
For a culture so enamored with sports, the pursuit of gold has come close several times in the past.
Prior to Diaz’s historic performance, Bill Velasco, a well-known sports journalist in the Philippines, posted a Facebook post outlining the country’s several failed opportunities to win the gold.
The 1936 Berlin Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics are the two most memorable for most Filipinos.
They credit their great basketball tradition to their almost-gold medal achievement in the first Olympic basketball competition in 1936, since basketball is the most popular sport in the country.
In the comments section of the above-mentioned post, Velasco described the events leading up to the island nation’s fifth-place finish:
The Philippines then had one of their best chances at a gold medal taken away from them in 1996 when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco faced Bulgaria’s Daniel Petrov Bojilov in the light-flyweight division.
Velasco reminisced on the events building up to his silver medal performance.
“He was the winner of the first round, but the score didn’t reflect it. According to what we learned, they used the pretext of computer scoring to justify his sacrifice, but he was truly sacrificed to appease a Bulgarian official. You only need one judge to not press the scoring button at all, and you’re screwed,” the journalist explained.
Diaz had earlier requested additional assistance from the Philippine government as she prepared for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after winning silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Despite the lack, she carries the weight of a country’s hopes on her shoulders. Brief News from Washington Newsday.