Buoyed by SEA Games bid, Philippine weightlifters aim for greater heights
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino weightlifters led by Hidilyn Diaz look to build on their breakout performance in the 30th Southeast Asian Games as they move forward to the bigger battles ahead, particularly in the chase for Olympic berth.
Diaz broke years of frustration with her maiden SEAG triumph in the women's -55kg class, a feat duplicated by Kristel Macrohon in the -71kg category as they led a two-gold, three-silver, two bronze harvest that boosted their stock ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.
"We are definitely moving forward. We haven't had a gold medal for a long time in the SEA Games and now we have two and we have three silvers and two bronzes, too," said Samahang Weighlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella.
Diaz and Macrohon's victories were complemented by runners-up outings by Elreen Ann Ando (women's -64kgs), John Fabuar Ceniza (men's -55kg), and Margaret Colonia (women's -59kg) and podium finishes by Olympian Nestor Colonia (men's -67kgs), and Mary Flor Diaz (women's -45kgs).
The SEAG served as part of the ranking process for qualification to Tokyo.
"We're hoping this will be just the first step of a thousand miles. Next week, the same group will try to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in China; they're leaving this weekend. And after the China qualifiers, they'll go to Rome in January for the next leg and April in Kazakhstan.
Diaz won the silver medal in the Rio and is poised to get another shot at the gold in 2020. She formed a two-member Philippine weightlifting squad in 2016 and the plan is to qualify more next time.
"We hope we could have three or four (in 2020) so that by time Paris 2024 comes, these young kids, successors of Hidillyn will step up and represent again (Philippine) weightlifting in the Paris Olympics," said Puentevella.
SWP is also looking at Ando, Macrohon and Fabuar as bright prospects for the next Olympics.
"Hidilyn is there and for me, Ando is a strong candidate for Tokyo together with Macrohon. Hopefully we can have Ceniza in the men's division, if not in Tokyo, in the 2024 Olympics," said Puentevella, thanking the team's backers led by the Philippine Sports Commission and MVP Sports Foundation for their continued support.
Aspirants will have until April of next year to gain precious ranking points, which will serve as the International Weightlifting Federation's basis in allocating slots.