Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Hidilin Diaz and national teammate Elreen Ando are set to compete for the country’s single entry in the women’s 59-kg weightlifting category at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
With the new weight classes, Diaz, the reigning gold medalist in the women’s 55-kg division, must move up four kilos, while Ando, previously in the women’s 64-kg category, has to move down by five.
At the recent national team tryouts for the Asian weightlifting championships in Jinju, South Korea and the 32nd Cambodia Southeast Asian Games at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium, both Diaz and Ando shared their reflections on their competition with each other.
Diaz, the reigning Olympic champion in the women’s 55-kg division, sets the bar for Filipino athletes.
The two upcoming events, the Asian weightlifting championships in Jinju, South Korea, and the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, will provide opportunities for her to showcase her abilities and solidify her status as a benchmark for aspiring Filipino athletes.
The Asian meet runs from May 3 to 13, while the SEA Games will be held from May 5 to 17 in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Monico Puentevella, President of the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas, announced that the national team will have sufficient time to prepare for the Cambodia SEA Games, as weightlifting events are scheduled towards the end of the Asian Championships.
Despite the overlapping dates of the two competitions, some of the team members will be able to recover and perform at their best in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Ando put up a strong performance, showcasing her skills in the women’s 59-kg division as she lifted 95 kilos in the snatch and 125 kilos in the clean-and-jerk, setting a new national record of 220 kilos.
The four-time Olympic veteran, Diaz, watched from the gallery.
The Zamboanga City native acknowledges the competition she and Ando face, not just against each other, but also against foreign athletes, as they strive to earn a spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
“Healthy competition But that’s the reality,” the 33-year-old Diaz said.
Despite this, she doesn’t view her younger teammate as an obstacle in her path to returning to the Olympic stage.
Instead, she chooses to concentrate on her own journey to participate in her sixth Olympic Games.
“Sa akin kasi maraming qualifying meets yan, eh, 4 or 5 Kung sino yung mas mataas ang ranking yung ang mag-qualify (For me, there are several qualifying meets, about 4 or 5. The one with the higher ranking will qualify),” said Diaz, who concluded her season with a remarkable feat, winning three gold medals in the women’s 55kg division at the 87th World Weightlifting Championship held in Bogota, Colombia in December 2022.
Ando, meanwhile, said, “Na-challenge po na dalawa kaming mag-kokompete sa isang category para sa Olympics. Kung kaya ni Ate Hidy, kaya ko rin (I embrace the challenge of us both competing in the same category for the Olympics. If Ate Hidy can do it, I am confident that I can too.”
At the national team tryouts, Ando secured her spot with a successful performance in the women’s 59-kg class, lifting 95 kilos in the snatch and 125 in the clean-and-jerk.
Diaz watched from the gallery but remains the “benchmark” for Filipino athletes.
Though both athletes must compete against each other and foreign competitors to secure the single Olympic entry, they maintain mutual respect and see each other as inspirational figures.
With no ill feelings between the two, it will be intriguing to see who will come out on top in this Olympic race.