By Waylon Galvez
Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) scare, organizers of next month’s Asian Weightlifting Championship in Kazakhstan have pulled out of staging the event which would have served as an Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
In its webpage, the International Weightlifting Federation changed the event’s location from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan. Asked about the sudden change of venue, national team coach Toni Agustin said is was because of the outbreak.
“Ang sabi sa amin dahil sa coronavirus,” said Agustin Wednesday when contacted by The Manila Bulletin.
The veteran mentor said they already contacted one of their counterparts in Uzbekistan on how to secure VISAs as well as other necessary documentations for Filipino athletes.
However, they were told that while it’s confirmed the IWF has changed the venue to Tashkent, the government of Uzbekistan has yet to formally accept the hosting due to the same reason.
“Hindi pa daw tinatanggap ng gobyerno nila kasi nga dahil sa coronavirus. Maski sila nagaantay pa din kung matutuloy ba sa kanila or hindi din. Sa ngayon, kami din nagaantay lang ng advisory,” said Agustin.
He said that it is important for them to know immediately if the Asian meet will be staged by Uzbekistan.
According to Agustin, they need to submit another request for financial assistance from the Philippine Sports Commission since the original approved OQT will be held in Kazakhstan.
“Ngayon kung sa Uzbekistan, panibagong request kami,” said Agustin.
Hidilyn Diaz, silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, leads the competitors for the Philippine Team eyeing a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the Asian Championship is crucial since this will formalize her entry to the Games by just merely participating in the event.
Diaz is currently No. 5 in the 55kg women’s category in world ranking with 3,717.0982 points behind four Chinese weightlifters in Jiang Huihua (4,667.8878), Liao Qiuyun (4,288.9622), Zhang Wangqiong (4,212.6639) and Li Yajun (4,099.0223).
Only one Chinese will earn Olympic spot since the competition allows one participant per country. Likewise, just the top eight weightlifters in the world based on the IWF ranking will advance in the Tokyo Olympics.
Diaz and her team are currently in training camp in Malaysia to prepare for the Asian Championship.
The other Filipino weightlifters in the running for Olympic berth and will also participate in the event are Nestor Colonia in the 67kg men’s, Elreen Ann Ando and Kristel Macrohon in the women’s 64kg and 71kg, respectively.