Hidilyn Diaz seeks to unseat reigning champion in Tokyo
MANILA, Philippines – In three months in Tokyo, where the ultramodern and the traditional intertwine, Hidilyn Diaz will pray for another “lift of faith” as she aims to accomplish what no Filipino has done before — capture the country’s first ever Olympic gold medal.
And for it to be a reality, the 30-year-old 2016 Rio silver medalist must beat in Tokyo a slew of world-class rivals that include reigning world champion Liao Quiyun, who ruled the Asian Championship last Sunday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where the former booked an Olympic berth.
The 25-year-old Liao edged compatriot and former world titlist Li Yajun by the skin of her teeth, 222-221, to take the gold and the right to represent powerhouse China in the Summer Games set July 23 to August 8.
Hometown bet Muattar Nabieva snatched the bronze with a 213 while Diaz settled for fourth place with a 212.
“Now we know it’s China again, only one lifter,” said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella. “We’re on track and barring all obstacles, we’re looking at another medal.”
In a twist of fate, Diaz took the silver in Rio when all she expected was a bronze after Li, the silver medalist in Tashkent, failed on her world record bid that cost the latter the gold and a medal.
And there’s a big chance fortune could favor the brave again like what happened to Diaz, whose yearlong training Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), in Rio.
“Three months to go. We now know our strength and weaknesses. Let God do the rest. Para sa bayan ito. Let’s go for it,” said Puentevalla.