Filipina Olympian Hidilyn Diaz comes home to a hero’s welcome

Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport without much fanfare two weeks ago.

Her goal, like any of the Filipino Olympians, was to bring home honor and glory for the country in this year’s Summer Games in Rio, Brazil.

Three weeks later, Diaz, 25, returned home to a raucous celebration as the country welcomed its newest sports heroine.

With her proud parents, father Eduardo Sr. and mother Emelita leading the welcome delegation, Diaz landed in Manila on Thursday under a festive atmosphere at the NAIA CIP Lounge in Terminal 3, thanks to her silver medal-winning performance in the women’s 53-kilogram competitions of the Rio Games on Monday.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa warm welcome,” a beaming Diaz said during the press conference where she was accompanied by her coach Alfonsito Aldanete, Senator Sonny Angara, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez and some of the Philippine Air Force officials.

“Sobrang shocked ako kasi hindi ako sanay sa ganitong dami ng tao.”

The country’s first female athlete to win a medal in the world’s grandest sporting stage, Diaz was all smiles as she answered questions from local media men for nearly 20 minutes, responding in short but definitive replies ranging from her immediate to future plans.

Diaz’s arrival, however, arrived later than expected as she and her company, aboard the Emirates Flight EK332 from Dubai, landed in Manila at 5:35 p.m., over an hour delayed from their estimated time of arrival.

The delay though hardly mattered for the people within the airport as excitement was evident among local sports officials, airport crews and mediamen.

Diaz made her way to the CIP Lounge under the vibrant beat of the Air Force Drum Corps.

After the press conference, Diaz left with her family for Davao City to pay a courtesy call to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Excited akong ipakita kay President Digong ang medal,” Diaz said with a big smile. – Jerome Lagunzad

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