Hidilyn Diaz’s bid to become the first Filipino to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals suffered a major blow after the International Weightlifting Federation reduced the number of weight classes that will be disputed in the Paris Summer Games in 2024.
Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella admitted to Daily Tribune that Diaz’s 55-kilogram event was already scrapped, leaving her with no choice but to compete in either the lighter 49kg category or the heavier 59kg class.
The IWF significantly reduced the number of events from seven in Tokyo Olympics to only five in Paris Summer Games.
Aside from the 55kg class, also scrapped were the 64kg, 76kg and 87kg categories while including the 71kg and 81kg events due to allegations of doping and other controversies within the international federation.
Moving to a different weight class with barely two years before the Games will not be easy.
For one, Diaz has to lose significant weight to be able to compete in the 49kg event while she has to bulk up tremendously if she wants to figure in the 59kg class.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source stressed that Diaz has to lift additional weight of at least 27kgs if she wants to land a medal in the 59kg event in the upcoming Olympics.
After all, Diaz started her career competing in the 58kg class before dropping to 53kg that led to a historic silver medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
Two years later, Chinese mentor Gao Kaiwen came on board to help Diaz collect her first Asian Games gold medal in the 53kg class.
Then in 2020, IWF scrapped the 53kg event that prompted Diaz to compete in the 55kg class that led to a gold medal in the IWF World Championship in Rome and the Summer Games in Tokyo – the Filipinos’ first title since joining the Olympics in 1924.
Puentevella said Diaz is facing a tough decision.
“She has to decide after the World Championship in Colombia whether to go down to 49kg or go up to 59kg,” Puentevella said in a telephone conversation.
“It will surely be hard but it has to be a decided by her and her husband in coach Julius (Naranjo).”
Kuo Hsing-chun of Chinese Taipei is the reigning champion in the women’s 59kg event with an Olympic record of 236kgs last year.
Diaz, meanwhile, lifted a total of 224kg – also an Olympic record – during her stint in the 55kg event of the Tokyo Games.
Puentevella admitted that Diaz has to confront the tough choice, but they will definitely respect whatever move she makes.
After all, the SWP has a solid pipeline of talents with Olympian Elreen Ando now competing in the 59kg event and junior world champion Rosegie Ramos campaigning in the 49kg event.
“Paris will be up to her,” said Puentevella, the man responsible for helping Diaz become an Olympic champion.
“Whatever she decides, I will respect that.”
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