Regardless of the outcome of the Olympic qualifiers, the national weightlifting team is tipped to make an impact in the international arena.
Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP) president Monico Puentevella painted a very rosy picture of their future, saying that they have a pipeline of talents that can take the cudgels if and when Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz decides to retire.
Unlike in the previous Olympics where Diaz and Nestor Colonia used to be its lone bets, the SWP now has six lifters to bank on in Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Kristel Macrohon, Elreen Ando, Mary Flor Diaz, John Ceniza and Jeffrey Garcia.
Puentevella said these athletes are in the top 15 in the world ranking and their chances of advancing to the Tokyo Olympics this July look bright.
“We have six athletes who have good chances of qualifying,” said Puentevella, the former chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee and commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“Realistically, I would be very happy if we can send three athletes to Tokyo. If we qualify those three, it’s going to be quite an achievement for us.”
“But we have to note that these six athletes are in the top 10 to 15 in the world ranking. If you are in the top 10, your chances to qualify definitely look bright. That’s why I’m hopeful. I know that we have enough talents in the pipeline.”
With the emergence of Diaz, Puentevella always has a representative in the Olympics.
Diaz started competing in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 before seeing action in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where she grabbed the silver medal.
“We have to understand that for Hidilyn to win her first Olympic silver medal in 2016 — and the gold medal soon — she lost in three straight Olympics. So it is not easy. This is a long process.”
“She lost in her first two competitions and it took her (Hidilyn) three attempts to finally get a silver medal. It is the same masterplan that I am now doing with my athletes.”
“As PSC chairman (William) Ramirez said, it is not just for the Tokyo Olympics that we are interested. We have to understand that if Hidilyn retires, we need to prepare her successor.”
Puentevella, in particular, has high hopes in Macrohon and Ando, who both displayed impressive performances in the women’s 71kg and 64kg categories, respectively, in the recent SEA Games.
“If Ando can make it to this Olympics, she probably can also make it also to the 2024 Paris Olympics,” he said, adding that the upcoming Olympic qualifiers in Rome and Kazakhstan would serve as their litmus tests if they can withstand the pressure.