Lifters shift focus to Tokyo Olympics

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    WHAT do newly-minted Southeast Asian Games champion Hidilyn Diaz and her teammates have for an encore after their 2019 SEA Games campaign?

    Buckle down to work to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

    “Pupunta sila next week ng China para mag-qualifying sa Olympics,” Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella said last Wednesday after Kristel Macrohon bagged the gold in the women’s 71-kilograms division.

    Puentevella was referring to Diaz, Macrohon, Elreen Ann Ando, and John Ceniza.

    Diaz, 28, is convinced the other Philippine lifters can get the job done and clinch berths in next year’s Summer Games.

    “Hindi ko masasabi about iyong Tokyo (stint) kasi may Olympic qualifying pa. But based on the numbers, based from the previous SEA Games, nakikita natin na nag-grow ang weightlifting,” said Diaz.

    “Sana makapag-qualify sila and they can do more. Hindi lang parehas ko, kung hindi mas maging higit pa kay Hidilyn Diaz. Sana maiuwi nila ang gold para sa Pilipinas.”

    Diaz is eyeing her fourth straight Olympics stint after winning a historic silver medal in the 2016 Rio Games.

    She ruled the 55kg event last Monday for her first SEA Games mint.

    The Zamboanga City native, who also won a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, said the sport is gaining progress in the country.

    Diaz and Macrohon won a gold apiece, while Ando, Ceniza (men’s 55kg), and Margaret Colonia (women’s 59kg) grabbed a silver each.

    Nestor Colonia (men’s 67kg) and Mary Flor Diaz (women’s 45kg), Hidilyn’s cousin, each copped a bronze.

    “Hindi lang ako ang nanalo. Mas malakas ngayon ang Philippine weightlifters,” she said. “Naggro-grow na iyong standard ng weightlifting. Iyong standard ng Philippine weightlifting team, tumataas na.”