- B J R

EVERYTHING’S happening so fast for Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, who arrived to a heroine’s welcome on Wednesday afternoon at Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino Internatio­nal Airport.

No less than President Duterte welcomed Diaz in a virtual conversati­on, promising the Olympic champion a personal P3 million reward and a fully-furnished house-and-lot in her hometown of Zamboanga City.

On top of those, Duterte said he will bestow on Diaz the Presidenti­al Medal of Merit, one of the highest recognitio­ns from a Chief Executive.

“We are so extremely proud of you, we cannot express even in words,” Duterte told Diaz. “Communicat­e with us one of these days. I will give you personally my P3 million aside from the P10 million from the government.”

“Live a good life. It’s not a big amount, but it’s not small. You’ll be helpful to our country soon,” Duterte added.

“Thank you so much Mr. President,” Diaz told Duterte in return.

Interestin­gly, Duterte touched on Diaz’s brush with government intelligen­ce reports two years ago, when a key Duterte aide showed a matrix of people—including Diaz—who are part of a conspiracy to topple the Administra­tion.

“It would be good for you to let bygones be bygones and dwell solely on your victory together with your family and with the nation,” the President said. There had been calls for Secretary Salvador Panelo, who showed the matrix, to apologize.

Diaz led other members of Team Philippine­s in the Philippine Airlines Flight PR427 that took o from Narita Airport in Japan.

The 30-year-old Diaz was welcomed with two bouquets of owers from Philippine Sports Commission Commission­ers Celia Kiram and Charles

Maxey, Philippine Olympic Committee Deputy Secretary General Karen Tanchangco Caballero; and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Philippine Air Force Commanding General Allen Paredes.

Diaz won the nation’s rst Olympic gold medal in women’s -55 kgs of weightlift­ing on Monday night. It was her second Olympic medal after the silver she clinched in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Also arriving on Wednesday were Team Diaz members Chinese coach Kaiwen Gao, strength and conditioni­ng coach Julius Naranjo and sports psychologi­st Karen Trinidad.

Diaz, who was also promoted to sta sergeant by the Air Force, thanked the PAL cabin crew composed of Captains Rommel Santos and Anthony Fonghe, First O cer Jose Rex Salvilla and Purser Maria Samantha Jacob.

Diaz and company no longer talked to the media and were whisked immediatel­y on a bus to the Hotel So tel where they will serve a sevenday quarantine.

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