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Much has been said about Hidilyn Diaz’s historic weightlifting Olympic gold medal win in Tokyo, with coverage reaching levels of national attention that an event of that magnitude rightfully deserves.
By now, the images of the winning lift, the medal awarding, and the emotional national anthem ceremony have left a lasting imprint in the memories of all Filipinos fortunate enough to see that chapter of history unfold.
Understandably enough, a small, but significant bit of the ceremony got somewhat lost in the middle of the highlight reel, and that is the moment when not one, but two Filipinas shared the biggest awarding stage sports has to offer.
Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworksi, the first Asian woman ever elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board, was fittingly assigned to hand Diaz a literal piece of history in the form of the once-elusive Olympic gold.
Despite her lofty status in the Games’ top governing body, the 2002 Asian Games gold medalist for equestrian show jumping admitted that her nerves were all over the place during the momentous occasion with her fellow Pinay.
“Kinakabahan ako kasi sabi ko, ‘Ano kaya reaction ni Hidy ‘pag nakita niya ako? Makakatulong ba na nandito ako o hindi?’ Parang ako ‘yung mas nako-conscious,” she shared in a recent segment of Archer Talks.
(I was nervous because I was saying, ‘What will Hidy’s reaction be when she sees me? Will it help that I’m here or not?’ It’s like I was the more uneasy one.)
Diaz, who had gotten used to seeing Cojuangco-Jaworksi since her silver-medal campaign in the 2016 Rio Olympics, was still really thankful that she got to share her biggest career achievement onstage with no less than a kababayan.
“Siyempre, sobrang saya na nakita ko siya sa presentation pa lang. Di ko rin inakala na andun siya sa awarding. Nakalimutan ko na ‘yung buong sinabi ni Ms. Mikee kasi sobrang in the moment pa ako, pero nagpapasalamat ako sa kanya,” she said.
(Of course, I was really happy that I saw her during the presentation, and I didn’t expect that she’d also be in the awarding. I already forgot what she said because I was caught up in the moment, but I’m really thankful for her.)
During the awarding, cameras focused on the two sports icons sharing an emotional conversation before Diaz finally claimed her glittering gold medal, the Philippines’ first in 97 years of Olympic competition.
Other than Cojuangco-Jaworski, Diaz’s coaches, and a handful of Filipino reporters covering and cheering onsite, no other Filipino was able to join Diaz’s brightest hour in Tokyo due to heavy pandemic restrictions throughout her stay in Japan.
“I was hoping all throughout the competition that I wouldn’t distract her, but of course, I was confident with Hidy’s mental focus as an athlete,” Cojuangco-Jaworski said. “At a certain point, I just knew she could block [the noise] out.”
Sure enough, Diaz did just that, and with one final, fluid motion, she lifted a nation’s longtime dream straight up into reality.