Greatest Olympics finish for the country

By Al S. Mendoza


THE first gold medal in Olympics history.

Delivered by Hidilyn Diaz, the weightlifting wonder from Zamboanga City, the priciest metal in sports ended a 97-year gold drought for the Philippines in the quadrennial Games.

I wrote this one day before Carlo Paalam was to gun for the country’s gold in the men’s flyweight finals on Saturday, August 7, at Kokugikan Arena in the Japanese capital.

Paalam, the former scavenger from Cagayan de Oro City, was slightly favored over Briton Galal Yafai.

A win for Paalam, 23, which is not really far-fetched, will give the Philippines its loftiest finish of two gold medals, one silver and one bronze since we first competed in the Olympics in Paris 1924.

But already, even before Paalam was to fight for ultimate glory, the nation is ecstatic, sparked by Hidilyn’s spectacular victory on July 26.

All the four corners of the archipelago are now buzzing with renewed confidence that we will perform with triple vigor when the next Olympics rolls along in Paris in 2024.

I can sense it.

From today onwards, every kid on the block will be doing a Hidilyn lift, if not a Paalam punch to the gut, in a stark reality to ignite a nationwide revolution in sports.

The surge in pride and honor will absolutely go on rising almost unstoppably, buoyed up by the slew of lucrative incentives amassed by our Tokyo Olympics winners.

Millions of pesos are now in the bank accounts of Hidilyn, Paalam, boxing silver winner Nesthy Petecio and boxing bronze victor Eumir Marcial—the four being the gallant Filipino medalists in the two-week competition.

And, as if to stress the importance of showing similar admiration for our non-winning Olympians who definitely gave it their all anyways, the government and a private company have pledged to reward P500,000 each to the 15 non-medalists.

How noble, indeed.

In winning her dream gold, Diaz, 29, upset Liao Quiyun, the world champion from China, with a sneaky 127-kilogram lift in the clean and jerk to prevail by a 224-223 squeaker in the women’s 55-kg bracket.

It was a brilliant follow-up to Diaz’s silver victory in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, becoming the first Filipino to win the top two medals in two straight Olympiads.

Hidilyn nabbed her gold in Tokyo on her fourth Olympics—another proof of her perseverance and undiminished will to win.

She is definitely the darling of Philippine sports now simply for her never-say-die attitude.

So that if she should now retire, gladly will we accept her decision.

She has done more than enough for the country.

I’m glad that not a single athlete succumbed to COVID-19 in this summer spectacle that banned both foreign and local fans, making some 11,000 athletes from some 107 nations perform before empty stands—still with all their might.

Such is sports. Its power to unite, to fight and conquer adversity, to survive a multitude of odds, is beyond compare.

Not even the attack of the deadliest virus in a century could derail, defeat, the will, the fighting spirit, of mankind.

God willing, see you in Paris three years from now.

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