Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal was 97 years and 224 kilograms in the making.
Hidilyn Diaz’s very strong arms halted the drought Monday night in Tokyo. Her world-record weightlifting hoists, totalling 224 kg, brought on unabashed tears of elation from the victor, and – at last – a gold disc that had eluded the country since its first appearance in 1924.
“We have been dreaming about this and believing for it, and now here it is. A reality,” Philippines Sports Commission chair Butch Ramirez said after the victory.
That gold-medal chase, for many countries, is both long and futile. It’s a difficult colour to land when you come out of a tiny place like Bermuda, for example – which, as it happens, joined the gold-medal club this week.
Thirty-three-year-old Flora Duffy won the women’s triathlon, making Bermuda the smallest country to mount the top podium and hear its anthem. Bermuda is at its 20th Games, dating back to 1936, and hadn’t won gold until Duffy’s gruelling performance.
“It’s bigger than me,” Duffy told reporters, “and that’s a really cool moment.”
Olympic gold medals criss-cross borders across the globe, but they haven’t been everywhere.
When it comes to the Summer Games, you’ve got one in Philippines, 30 in Brazil, more than 1,000 in the United States. Canada entered the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with 63 summer gold medals, the first by steeplechaser George Orton in 1900.
Meanwhile, dozens of Summer Games countries are stuck at zero. Haiti’s drought is the longest. This is their 18th Olympics since 1900 — either one or two fencers competed that year, depending on the source — and they have not yet claimed a gold medal.
Haiti won bronze at their second Olympics appearance, in 1924, thanks to the efforts of their free rifle team. Four years later, Silvio Cator placed second in men’s long jump, and this whole winning-a-medal thing must have seemed so easy.
But they haven’t collected one, of any colour, since then. Iceland is the only other country with a century-plus gold-medal drought. This is their 22nd Summer Olympics, the first in 1908 (when one Icelandic athlete competed), and they’ve got two silver and two bronze to show for it. Perhaps surprisingly, Iceland has competed at the Winter Olympics since 1948 and has yet to medal.
“All I’ve done is run fast,” Fanny Blankers-Koen said after winning four gold medals for the Netherlands at the 1948 Olympics. “I don’t quite see why people should make so much fuss about that.”
But Olympics are all about the fuss, and Philippines and Bermuda finally landed their party invites.
“It’s a dream come true,” Diaz told reporters.
“I think,” Duffy said, “the whole of Bermuda is going crazy.”