Diaz rallies behind Pinoy athletes still in contention in Rio

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 09, 2016 04:09 PM
Diaz rallies behind Pinoy athletes in contention in Rio
Hidilyn Diaz, of the Philipines, laughs as she leaves the stage after a lift in the women's 53kg weightlifting competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

RIO DE JANEIRO – Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who just ended a 20-year medal drought for the Philippines in the Olympics, rallied behind the Filipino athletes who are still in contention in the Summer Games here.

Diaz said the battle is not over yet with seven more athletes seeing action in the coming days, and hoped that any one among them could still deliver a medal and give the Philippines its best finish in the Olympics since 1932.

In that Olympics 84 years ago in Los Angeles, the Philippines won three bronze medals courtesy of Simeon Toribio in men’s high jump, Jose Villanueva in men’s boxing (bantamweight) and Teofilo Yldefonso in men’s 200, breaststroke.

No other time after that did the Philippines win more than one medal in an Olympics.

Diaz, who won the silver medal in the women’s 53 kg class, became the first female athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic medal.

The three-time Olympian from Zamboanga City also gave the country its first Olympic medal in weightlifting, and its first since boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal in Atlanta in 1996.

She called on those still in the running to continue the fight.

“Don't give up. Continiue the fight and give your best,” said Diaz, now the newest toast of Philippine sports, which has long been searching for a new hero in the mold of Manny Pacquiao.

Diaz’ victory last Sunday should help boost the sport of weightlifting in the Philippines. It’s a sport that’s suited for Filipinos, especially in the lower or smaller weight classes.

“It's not important if this is your first time in the Olympics or your second or third because once you are here, you must give your best,” said Diaz.

“I hope we can still win here,” said Diaz, who called on Filipino sports fans to continue supporting the others who are still in the medal hunt.

They are Fil-Japanese judoka Kodo Nakano who vies in the men’s 81 kg division Tuesday morning here, then swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi in the women’s 100m freestyle on Wednesday, golfer Miguel Tabuena from Aug. 11 to 14, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal on Aug. 14, Eric Cray in the men’s 400m hurdles on Aug. 15, long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang on Aug, 16 and Kirstie Elaine Alora in the women’s +67 kg of taekwondo on Aug. 20.

Already out of contention are Ian Lariba of table tennis, Jessie Khing Lacuna of swimming, Nestor Colonia of weightlifting and Charly Suarez and Rogen Ladon of boxing.

Diaz will be the first to fly out of Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 12 together with Colonia so she could attend the fiesta in her hometown in Zamboanga on Aug. 13 while Lariba, Lacuna and Alkhaldi will leave on Aug. 15. The boxers will fly home the day after.

Nakano, the 23-year-old judoka who’s based in Japan with his Filipina mother, will make his Olympic debut against Mateo Maconcini of Italy Tuesday morning.

“The competition is not over yet. I hope the fans continue to support and pray for our other athletes,” said Diaz, slowly feeling the thrill of being an Olympic medalist.

Even inside the Athletes Village, fellow competitors recognize her as a weightlifting medalist. There’s non-stop requests for interviews from media outlets in Manila, and even her fellow Filipino athletes are all over her.

Diaz was treated to dinner by officials of TV5, the official broadcast partner of the Philippine team, and at the restaurant, even non-Filipinos welcomed her with a warm round of applause.

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