Olympic fever as Hidilyn Diaz wins first Philippines gold medal

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Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, a day after making history as the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist, topped the headlines in an ecstatic nation over reports of a speech major of its president.

But for the acclaimed 30-year-old, the story was very different in 2019, when her name was included on a list of people accused of conspiring against the same man, Rodrigo Duterte.

The inclusion on the list of Salvador Panelo, then Duterte’s spokesperson, made Diaz fear for his life, she told national media at the time.

But that did not distract her from her Olympic ambitions.

“Do not link the name of a person who is busy making sacrifices for the Philippines and doing everything to represent the Philippines in weightlifting,” she said in a Facebook post in 2019 that dismissed the claims by Panelo. “I am focused on my goal for Tokyo 2020.”

Fast forward to the present day, and officials have nothing but praise for the woman who ended a nearly century-long wait for Olympic gold for a nation that first competed in the Games. in 1924.

Diaz is a four-time Olympian and won a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics. She broke the world record holder in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category in Tokyo on Monday.

“We will engrave Hidilyn Diaz’s name in the history of the Philippines,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press conference on Tuesday.

He distanced himself from Panelo’s list, adding, “I don’t know what… you’re talking about. As a spokesperson, I did not accuse Hidilyn Diaz of anything.

The list was presented in May 2019 as an interconnected array of people who, according to a government transcript, have been accused of aiming to “discredit this administration leading to its ouster.”

Diaz’s name was on the card, which the Philippine government news agency said depicted a “conspiracy to discredit” the government, but Panelo did not mention it directly.

Duterte, 76, has often portrayed his critics as enemies since coming to power in elections five years ago.

Panelo said on Tuesday that he had no plans to tie Diaz to a conspiracy, saying the media came to that conclusion after presenting the Matrix.

“It is truly disheartening that there are people out there looking to deflect attention from Ms. Diaz’s recent triumph and turn it into a political skirmish of who should and should not celebrate our country’s victory,” said Panelo, who is Duterte’s chief legal advisor, said in a report.

Diaz, meanwhile, is hoping those celebrating can take inspiration from her making as well.

“I would like to tell all Filipinos, nothing is impossible,” she said in a press conference broadcast live on Facebook.

“Despite the pandemic, we are here and we have brought the medal home. “

With Reuters and Associated Press

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