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SWP backs Diaz decision

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF HIDILYN DIAZ/IG HIDILYN Diaz is back in Malaysia to prepare for the 2021 World Weightlifting Championship in Uzbekistan.

With the ecstasy of winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal yet to die down, Hidilyn Diaz is reportedly tipped to skip the 2021 World Weightlifting Championship in Uzbekistan next month.

And the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP) is fully supportive of her decision.

SWP president Monico Puentevella yesterday said he wants his prized ward to take it slow following a historic campaign in the Summer Games in Tokyo last August.

Puentevella said should Diaz skip the prestigious tourney, it will give other young lifters like Elreen Ando, John Ceniza, Kristel Macrohon and Vanessa Sarno a chance to gain the spotlight in the sport’s biggest tourney outside the Olympics.

Ando, who joined Diaz in the Tokyo Olympics, will compete in the women’s 64-kilogram (kg) division while Ceniza, a silver medalist in the previous Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, will vie in the men’s 61-kg class.

Macrohon, a SEA Games champion, will compete in the women’s 71-kg event while Sarno will see action in the women’s 76-kg battle.

Diaz is already in Malaysia to kick off her training.

But reports have it that she will be skipping the tourney after some of her rivals in the women’s 55-kg event, including Liao Qiuyun of China, will not be seeing action to take a rest following a grueling Olympic campaign.

“I know a lot of Olympians aren’t joining,” said Diaz in a media interview.

“I prefer to compete against the best of the best. I’ve been training only for three or four times a week lately. I don’t think I will be able to sustain my performance in Tokyo. I was told that many of the Olympians are still recovering and enjoying their rest after training for so long.”

Puentevella said he will respect Diaz’s decision.

“If she’s not focused and she’s not ready, then we should respect her decision. You cannot join the world championship if you’re not in shape,” said Puentevella, who is considered as the chief architect of Diaz’s Olympic triumph.

“She said she’s not in shape so let’s give her that space and let’s give her all the respect because she’s still trying to enjoy her triumphant golden performance.”

Puentevella added that Diaz’s golden finish completely changed her life.

Aside from massive cash prizes that reportedly go higher than P50 million on top of condominium units, houses, cars and other perks, Diaz also landed a handful of product endorsements and non-sports commitments.

But the biggest change in her life was when her long-time partner in Julius Naranjo expressed her willingness to settle down with her.

Puentevella said Diaz should follow her heart’s desires.

“Let’s give it to her. She will compete when she’s ready and she claims she’s not ready, let’s respect that. We give her our blessings because it’s time for her to enjoy,” Puentevella said.

“She already had a silver and a gold medal so what else does the country want? So let’s give her space and let’s give her time to enjoy with her boyfriend and just hope that she’ll be ready next year for the Asian Games and the SEA Games. Let her enjoy her life. She has sacrificed for so many years and it’s time for her to enjoy.”

The weightlifting chief added that the sport is already in good hands as they are armed with a solid pipeline of talents who can win in future Olympic editions.

“Maybe we can win some more medals in the world championships, why not. These girls are ready, they’re hungry and they’re focused, they have been training and they want to go to the Olympics in Paris and the competition is a qualifying event,” he said.

“Hidilyn does not need it now but the new girls and boys will need more qualifying points for Paris 2024.”

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