Hidilyn Diaz sets new Olympic record, wins Philippines' first-ever Olympic gold medal

The Philippines' 97-year wait for a gold medal in the Olympics is over after Hidilyn Diaz triumphed in the women's 55kg weightlifting at Tokyo 2020.

The 30-year-old Zamboanga native cleared 127kg in her last attempt at clean and jerk for a total of 224kg, barely edging out world record holder Liao Qiuyun (223kg total) of China in an incredibly breathtaking clash that ended in a landmark win for the country.

Both of Diaz's final tallies in the clean and jerk category and her overall total are new Olympic records.

The Philippines first entered in 1924 when David Nepomuceno featured in the 100m and 200m sprint. The Philippines would go on to win its first bronze medal four years later in Amsterdam through Teofilo Yldefonso's third-place finish in the men's 200m breaststroke and then took its first silver medal at Tokyo in 1964 when Anthony Villanueva came second in the men's featherweight boxing. The Philippines went on to win silver again at Atlanta in 1996 through Mansueto Velasco in the light flyweight boxing and again at Rio in 2016 with Diaz coming second in the 53kg weightlifting category.

Diaz brandished tremendous form and started out strong in the snatch as she lifted 97kg to put her in a tie with Liao and to rank behind Uzbekistan's Muattar Nabieva, who set the Olympic record with 98kg.

It only got better once things got going in clean and jerk, where Diaz stormed ahead by clearing 119kg in her first attempt.

China's Liao pulled ahead by lifting 123kg to raise her total to 220, but Diaz would not be denied and upstaged her Chinese competitor by clearing 124kg to hike her advantage to 221kg.

Liao raised 126kg to retake the lead at 223, but a driven and determined Diaz came through on her very last attempt with a lift that propelled her atop the pantheon of the greatest sporting moments in Philippine history.

Diaz's gold medal campaign culminates a journey that saw her become the first ever Filipina weightlifter to compete in the Olympics back in 2008, to winning a silver in Rio in 2016 that ended what was then a 20-year medal drought for the country.

Her crowning glory also means incredible gains once she gets home, as she stands to receive a total of P33 million in incentives in the form of pledges from tycoons Manuel V. Pangilinan and Ramon Ang, who both threw in P10 million for the gold medalist, and from Cong. Mikee Romero, who sweetened the pot by adding P3 million. Republic Act 10699 also guarantees Diaz P10 million pesos.

Liao settled for silver, while Kazakhstan's Zulfiya Chinshanlo took home bronze by recording 213kg. Nabieva faded late and managed just 212 for fourth place.

"I am 30 years old and I thought it would be like going down, my performance, but I was shocked I was able to do it," Diaz said in a post-match interview.

On the podium, a still-tearful Diaz stood to attention saluting as she belted out her country's national anthem at the top of her voice.

Diaz, who said she would aim to participate at the next Games in Paris, held her hands to her face and burst into tears before embracing her coaches and clutching at the medallion around her neck.

Last year, Diaz had been stuck in Malaysia, where she stopped on her way to Peru for an Olympic qualifying event, for about five months under a government travel ban due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Diaz said she built a gym and trained with water bottles during that time.

ESPN's Tom Hamilton and Reuters contributed to this report.