Even without Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, the national weightlifting team is set to go all out in its quest for glory in the 2021 World Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan set from 7 to 17 December.
Weightlifting president Monico Puentevella said he wants the lifters to compete not just to gain experience, but to emerge with medals and prove that there is life after Diaz.
Diaz, the first Filipino to win an Olympic gold medal, begged off from seeing action in the world tourney after finding out that her rivals will not be competing as well.
Instead, she will just take it slow until the end of the year before preparing for her missions in the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and 19th Asian Games next year.
With that, the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas will send another Olympian in Elreen Ando as well as rising stars John Ceniza, Vanessa Sarno and Kristel Machoron in the world’s biggest, most prestigious weightlifting event outside the Olympics.
Ando will see action in the women’s 64-kilogram (kg) event while Ceniza slugs it out in the men’s 61-kg class. Sarno, an Asian champion, will compete in the women’s 76-kg category while SEA Games gold medalist Macrohon tests her mettle in the women’s 71-kg event.
Puentevella said their goal is to win medals as well as earn ranking points that will help them book tickets to the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“Whenever we send athletes abroad, we are always looking for medals. That’s why every time they compete, so far, they always emerge with medals,” said Puentevella, who took a chance on the 16-year-old Diaz when he sent her to the Beijing Olympics as a wildcard bet in 2008.
“Even if we are just sending them for experience, we’re still expecting them to win medals.”
Puentevella had already plotted their life after Diaz.
In fact, the 23-year-old Ando is tipped to make her presence felt in the Paris Olympics before finally winning an Olympic medal in the Los Angeles Games in 2028 as well as the 18-year-old Sarno and the 25-year-old Macrohon, who are both expected to shine as well.
Still, Puentevella asserted that they are not putting pressure on the shoulders of their young lifters.
“Even in the Olympics with Hidilyn, I never said gold,” said Puentevella, a seasoned sport official.
“I always say that we should win a medal for the country. I don’t give any false prediction. I just say that we will get medals be it gold, silver or bronze.”
He added that his athletes are working hard and would always be ready to compete for the country.
“I do not want to give false hope to the people in this country. I will just say medals so that if they get gold, great. If they get bronze, great. No problem,” he said.
“But they have to get medals or else they will not be sent to the next competition.”