Hidilyn Diaz leads eight other Filipinos as the 2021 Asian Weightlifting Championship, the region’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), kicks off Saturday, April 17, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Diaz, silver medal winner during the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, is in her sixth OQT, which will formalize her entry to a fourth consecutive Olympics on July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo, Japan.
“I’m very excited, ang tagal ko din naghintay sa event na ito, and I am happy talagang tuloy na tuloy na (I’ve been waiting for so long for this event, and I am happy that it’s finally happening,” said the 30-year-old Diaz.
Originally set in April of last year in Kazakhstan, the event organizers canceled it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the moment, she is No. 5 in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) ranking in the 55kg women’s category with 3,717.0982 points. She is set to compete Sunday, April 18.
In front of Diaz in the world ranking are four Chinese lifters, Jiang Huihua (4,667.8878), Liao Qiuyun (4,288.9622), Zhang Wangqiong (4,212.6639) and Li Yajun (4,099.0223).
However, as per the IWF guidelines and Tokyo Olympics rules, it appears that only Jiang will advance because only one weightlifter is allowed to compete per country in the Summer Games.
Eight other Filipino weightlifters will compete in the tournament.
These are Mary Flor Diaz (45kg), Ellen Rose Perez (49kg), Margaret Colonia (59kg), Elreen Ann Ando (64kg), Vanessa Sarno (71kg) and Kristel Macrohon (76kg) in the women’s division, while in the men’s category are John Fabuar Ceniza (61kg) and John Dexter Tabique (96kg).
Like Hidilyn Diaz, her cousin Mary Flor Diaz, Ando, Macrohon and Ceniza are also eyeing Olympic berths.
“It’s not just Hidiyn Diaz, we have four others hoping to clinch a spot in the Olympics. Of course, Hidilyn needs just one more OQT, and she’s in, but for the four, they need to perform well to get a chance,” said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP) president Monico Puentevella.
With the national team that left Manila last Wednesday for Tashkent are coaches Nicolas Jaluag and Gary Hortelano.
Diaz, on the other hand, is with her ‘Team HD’ of Chinese mentor Kaiwen Gao and strength/condition coach Julius Naranjo. They left Malaysia last week, 10 days prior to the competition.