By the time Hidilyn Diaz makes her final lift at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Sunday, the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics silver medalist from Zamboanga City will formally make it to the Tokyo Games later this year.
Though she needs to just “show up” and complete the required five-tournament rule she needs to satisfy to make the Games proper, the second-ranked lifter in the world has been readying herself mentally and physically for this final qualification meet for more than a year even while in quarantine in Malaysia.
“I just need to get my right body weight and show up in the Asian championships to qualify,’’ said the 30-year-old Asian Games gold medalist before breaking camp in Kuala Lumpur, her home since the COVID-19 health crisis began in March 2020.
Diaz, who will see action in her fourth straight Olympics when the Japan edition rolls along, arrived in Tashkent on Tuesday with Chinese coach Kaiwen Gao and strength and conditioning mentor Julius Naranjo, to be able to acclimatize before the women’s 55kg competition on Sunday. Jeaneth Aro, Diaz’s nutritionist, joined them the following day.
Diaz doesn’t need a podium finish in Tashkent for an Olympic spot as taking part in the competition would complete the International Weightlifting Federation’s requirement of seeing action in five tournaments to be eligible for Tokyo.
But the fierce competitor in her says otherwise and she wants a strong showing for a good reason.
“It will serve as a tuneup for me going to the Olympics,’’ said Diaz, whose last tournament was the Roma 2020 World Cup where she captured three gold medals in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total.
“It’s difficult mentally when you are not able to compete in a tournament for more than a year,’’ she added.
Barring any major disaster in Tashkent, Diaz, on whose shoulders one of the country’s biggest chances of ending a century-old gold medal drought lies, will join early Filipino Olympic qualifiers pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno.
“I have been continuously working hard to achieve that dream [of winning a Games gold for the Philippines]. I hope all my sacrifices will pay off,’’ said Diaz, who broke a 20-year medal drought for Team Philippines in the Olympics after bringing home that silver from Brazil.
Eight more lifters who are likewise seeking Olympic spots left for Tashkent on Wednesday to join Diaz in the tournament set to begin on Saturday.
Vanessa Sarno, Kristel Macrohon, Elreen Ann Ando, Margaret Colonia, Elien Rose Perez and Mary Flor Diaz are hoping to accompany Diaz in Tokyo as well as male lifters John Febuar Ceniza and John Dexter Tabique.
In another development, Philippine Sports Commission commissioner and Southeast Asian (SEA) Games chef de mission Ramon Fernandez will sit down with Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino on Thursday to discuss the preparation of SEA Games-bound athletes.
A reliable source told the Inquirer that among the topics to be deliberated on is the proposed no vaccine, no bubble training for the 626 athletes from 39 sports.
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