Awards, citations and nationwide parties will have to wait a week or two.
Philippine weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, fresh off winning her country’s first Olympic gold medal in nearly a century at the Tokyo Games, arrived in Manila on Wednesday and was taken to a hotel for seven days of quarantine.
“Finally gold!” A banner read at the airport as military personnel waved Philippine flags and applauded as Diaz landed. But even his historic medal cannot eclipse the coronavirus protocol in a country battling the ongoing virus outbreak and economic crisis.
Diaz, 30, who won gold in the women’s 55-kilogram category on Monday in her fourth Olympic appearance, will be able to take her prize once she is released from quarantine.
Philippine executives and business tycoons have offered more than 40 million pesos ($800,000) in cash. Others have promised a residential condominium unit in an upscale district, a vacation home in a resort town south of Manila, a new van and free gasoline, as well as free commercial flights for life.
President Rodrigo Duterte and members of his cabinet congratulated Diaz via video.
The Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia. Lockdowns and quarantines crippled the economy last year in the country’s worst post-war recession.
The Philippines has participated in every edition of the Summer Olympics since 1924 – except the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games – and has won three silver and seven bronze medals. Diaz won the silver medal in 2016, her country’s first appearance on an Olympic podium in 20 years.
Weightlifter Diaz wins first Olympic gold for Philippines
Hidilyn Diaz won the silver medal in Rio in 2016
Before the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, travel restrictions forced Diaz to undergo training in Malaysia for more than a year. But with his victory, Diaz earned a place in the country’s “cult of great athletes,” according to a quote from the Philippine Senate. She joins the ranks of a handful of Filipino sports personalities who have earned international fame under the leadership of boxer Manny Pacquiao, now a senator and a potential presidential contender in next year’s elections.
Philippine TV networks have paid tribute to Diaz, focusing on how she overcame poverty through sport in her southern hometown of Jamboanga. The fifth of six children of a motorcycle taxi driver, he had to carry containers of water for blocks to his house and vegetables sold in the public market, which helped develop his muscles.
People noticed her weight-lifting abilities early on, but she was discouraged by others who told her that the sport was reserved for men and that they could prevent her from getting pregnant.
But she persisted and won a local weightlifting competition, which served as her springboard for the Olympics.
Military Chief of Staff General Sirilito Sobejana said Wednesday that Diaz, who is in the Air Force, has been promoted to the rank of staff sergeant “to bring pride and glory to our country.”
Duterte, Roman Catholic Church leaders, top business executives, film personalities and Filipinos in general expressed their gratitude and congratulations. Apart from good luck, a bounty of financial rewards await. Philippine officials and business tycoons have pledged more than 40 million pesos ($800,000) in cash. Others have promised a residential condominium unit in an upscale district, a vacation home in a resort town south of Manila, a new van and free gasoline, as well as free commercial flights for life.