PH Olympian profiles: Hidilyn’s shot at glory, medal contender Marcial, golf phenoms Saso, Pagdanganan

Published July 21, 2021, 3:12 PM

by Waylon Galvez

HIDILYN DIAZ

Hidilyn Diaz

This edition of the Tokyo Olympics is Hidilyn Diaz’s fourth straight stint, and the weightlifter is one of the country’s best hopes to finally win the first gold medal in the Summer Games.

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, the native of Zamboanga City bagged the silver medal in the 53-kilogram category in weightlifting women’s division. It was the first podium finish for the Philippines in 20 years, and the first Filipina to win a medal in the Olympics.

Two years later, Diaz captured the gold medal in the same category during the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games in Indonesia.

Prior to this year’s Tokyo Olympics, Diaz won her first gold medal in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games here in 2019, and pocketed three gold medals in the 2020 Roma World Cup in Italy.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her ‘HD Team’ of Chinese mentor Kaiwen Gao, as well as strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo were forced to stay in a training camp for more than a year in Malaysia.

The 30-year-old Diaz is expected to compete for the gold medal in the 55-kg category against her rival from China, lifters from host Japan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

YUKA SASO

Yuka Saso

Three years ago in Indonesia, Yuka Saso made a stunning comeback in the final round of women’s golf to win the gold medal in the individual women’s category in the 2018 Asian Games.

It was actually a double gold for the Filipino-Japanese since she also helped the women’s national team win the title.

Because of her latest success when she triumphed in the US Women’s Open championship – one of the six major tournaments in women’s professional golf – Saso has put herself in the conversation of top prospects for a gold medal for the Philippines.

The 20-year-old Saso will enter the Tokyo Olympics as No. 8 golfer in women’s world ranking.

One thing going for Saso is her familiarity playing in Japan as she competed in the Japan LPGA Tour. Since turning professional in 2019, Saso has won two titles as a rookie in the tour.

BIANCA PAGDANGANAN

Bianca Pagdanganan

In the US LPGA Tour, Filipino golfer Bianca Pagdanganan is among the long hitters in the women’s division – something the 23-year-old hopes to make good use as in her bid for a podium finish.

Pagdanganan claimed a spot in the Tokyo Olympics as the 44th competitor with a world ranking of No. 165. She was able to score world-ranking points with her good showing in the LPGA Tour.

Last year during her rookie season in the LPGA Tour, Pagdanganan had a solid outing as she finished tied for ninth to 12th places with three other golfers in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Competing at the international level isn’t new for the now 23-year-old golfer.

Pagdanganan was part of the gold medal winning women’s national golf team with Yuka Saso and Lois Kaye Go in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. She also bagged the bronze medal in the said event.

Two years ago in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Pagdanganan won the gold medal in the women’s individual golf and in the way led the women’s team to a gold medal finish.

EUMIR MARCIAL

Eumir Marcial

Eumir Marcial is one of four boxers in the Philippine contingent in this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

And just like in the past Olympics, boxing is expected to bring home a medal.

Many observers expect Marcial as one of the top fighters in the middleweight class to vie for the gold medal, something the 23-year-old fighter is capable of doing after he settled with a silver medal in the 2019 World Championships in Russia.

Marcial earned his ticket to the Tokyo Olympics with a solid performance in the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Amman, Jordan.

To prepare for the Summer Games, Marcial decided to turn professional when he signed a contract in mid-2020 with the MP Promotions of Senator and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

Marcial won his first pro fight against American Andrew Whitfield.

To prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, Marcial is fresh from a training camp in Colorado Spring, the home of the USA Boxing Team, where he spent at least a month for his final push for the event.

 
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