Hidilyn Diaz makes history. After almost 100 years in contending at the Olympics, the Philippines finally won its first Olympic Gold medal. Hidilyn Diaz earned Gold in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event at the Japan 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. She lifted a total of 224 kilograms, outperforming the Chinese world record holder of the past several years, Liao Qiuyun who ended up getting the silver medal with her total of 223 kilograms.
In Diaz’s interviews with the media, she attributed her victory first to God, the very cause and reason, she emphasized, for her ending up where she is. And yes, where this 30-year-old is now is at the top of her sport, the crème of the country’s pride, the toast of celebrations, and a bright, distinguished place in Philippine history. She remarked that her victory also is due to the tremendous help and encouragement from her family and friends, the support from the nation and several organizations and, not to forget, the very hard work she had to undergo for this competition, in the midst of the pandemic. Testimony to the resourcefulness and determination of her competitive spirit, not having actual weights for her practices, she persevered to prepare for the event by lifting heavy water jugs as substitutes for weights. A glorious yet humble win.
Diaz, the new world’s record holder in women’s weightlifting, garnered the silver medal in that event in the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. The Philippines now has a total of 11 Olympic medals won since its first Olympic participation in 1924.
A toast to the Olympic spirit
At this juncture, I take the opportunity to mention one other Philippine contender at the Tokyo Olympics, Margielyn Didal, who competed in women’s street skateboarding.
I was particularly drawn to watch this event that for the first time, has been duly recognized to be a deserving competitive sport at the Olympics. Quite obvious were the hurdles, big risks and hardships that faced the contenders. Didal, like many of her fellow competitors, performed scored moves and stunts, but had many falls. What struck me was that after every fall, Didal would exude a wide smile so brilliant that I thought it brightened up the sports park. I was especially touched when watching her and other contestants pick themselves up, obviously showing pain as they limped back or hopped on to their skateboard.
I thought – this is the true spirit of the Olympics. It’s not all about the wins or the medals. It’s about friendships, warm conviviality, unity in the midst of the great diversity. It’s kindness to another, just like that smile and comforting gesture Didal had for a contender right after a bad fall – and a broad smile for the world, as though saying, it’s OK, I’m OK, and I’m having fun. This vivacious teenager ended up in 7th place in the competition.
If I had the advantage of choosing material for a Tokyo Olympics 2020 ad board – I would opt for a picture of Margielyn Didal, plopped on the cement floor after a hard spill when her skateboard escaped from under her feet during a hazardous stunt, waving and with a winsome smile on her face.
If you watch the Olympics, I suggest, closely observe the faces of competitors. In victory or defeat, in celebration or disappointment – it’s humanity at work. It’s the world, in the midst of tremendous challenges, striving to go on – and through the venue of competitive sports, striving to get along …