With their eyes glued to a television in the southern Philippines, the family of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz yelled “push, push, push!” as she hoisted the bar to win the country’s first Olympic gold medal.
“Then we erupted in joy — we were shouting, some shed tears of joy,” Emelita Diaz told AFP Tuesday, a day after watching her daughter’s historic performance in Tokyo — far from her hometown of Zamboanga.
“We didn’t know what to feel because we were extremely happy.”
After nearly 18 months training in exile in Malaysia because of Covid-19 restrictions, Diaz smashed her personal best and won gold with a final clean and jerk of 127kg in the women’s 55kg class.
The 30-year-old’s triumph — which followed her silver medal in Rio five years ago — has made her a national hero, alongside the likes of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.
“Thank you, Hidilyn Diaz, for the first-ever Olympic Gold for the Philippines! We are so proud of you!” Pacquiao tweeted from the United States where he is training for his upcoming fight against American Errol Spence.
The feat is also a life-changing windfall for Diaz, the daughter of a tricycle driver on the southern island of Mindanao.
As a reward for winning gold, Diaz will receive at least 33 million pesos ($655,000) from the government and private sector, as well as a house.
Property developer Megaworld Corporation also announced Tuesday it would give the Philippine Air Force woman a residential condominium worth 14 million pesos.
It could also prove a “game-changer” for other Filipino athletes, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday, acknowledging government financial support was insufficient.
“It’s as if our athletes are only getting minimum wage,” he said.