Olympian weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the first-ever gold medal for the Philippines at the Tokyo Games on Monday, breaking the country’s 97-year drought.
Diaz, a four-time Olympian, emerged victorious in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting competition after an overall lift of 224 kilograms – an Olympic record. After realizing she won, she broke into tears.
“I am 30 years old and I thought it would be like going down, my performance, but I was shocked I was able to do it,” Diaz said in a post-match interview, Reuters reported.
Philippines’ presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a written statement that Diaz brought pride and glory to the Philippines.
“Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you,” he added.
During the medal ceremony, the Filipino national anthem was played for the first time at the Olympics following her victory. She held her hands to her face and burst into tears before embracing her trainers and clutching her medal at the podium.
Last year, Diaz had been stuck in Malaysia, where she stopped on her way to Peru for an Olympic qualifying event, for about five months under a government travel ban because of a COVID-19 outbreak, according to Reuters. Diaz said she built a gym and trained with water bottles during that time.
The Philippines first entered the Olympics in 1924, when David Nepomuceno ran in the 100- and 200-meter sprints.