Hidilyn Diaz fails to win Paris Olympics berth but 3 Pinoy lifters are in

By Jeanne Michael Penaranda

PHUKET, Thailand/MANILA  — It was a sad day for the country’s first Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz after she failed to claim a berth for the Paris Olympics at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup in Phuket, Thailand.

 Diaz’ loss, however, is compensated by the victory of three weightlifters to secure a part in the next Olympic Games this July for good showing at the Phuket competition, the final round for gaining a berth in the coming games.

The three winners are led by Diaz’ protege from Cebu City, Elreen Ando, 25, who competed in the same division (59 kg) as that of Hidilyn Diaz.

Diaz said she was still happy with the results but added she will continue lifting weights.

“I love this sport, I don’t want to stop,” Diaz said in an interview with the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). “But what I have to do now is take a good rest and think about the priorities in my life. Today wasn’t my day. Paris was not to be.”

“We have to pay tribute to Hidi. She’s our only Olympic gold medalist and [she] inspired a lot of kids to pick up the sport of weightlifting,’’ said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella

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With the loss, it will be the first time Diaz won’t see action in the Olympics after a Philippine record four straight appearances, highlighted by a historic golden performance in the Tokyo Games in 2021. 

In a stunning turn of events, Ando seized her chance for another Olympic appearance and snatched the Paris berth for the Philippines in the women’s 59kg weight category from Hidilyn Diaz.

Ando secured her place in the Paris Olympics, her second in the games after Tokyo, when she scored a combined lift of 228kg in the 59kg weight division  on Wednesday.

Also assured of berth in the Paris Olympics was John Ceniza who competed in the w79kg division.

Ando lifted 100kg in the snatch and 128kg in the clean-and-jerk.

“Sobrang saya ko, dahil nagawa ko lahat ng training ko,” an ecstatic Ando said as quoted by ABS-CBN’s Dyan Castillejo. “Ang daming kong na-sacrifice. Ang laki ng tiwala ko sa sarili ko. Naisip ko, nabuhat ko na ang 128kg sa training  [I am so happy because all my training paid off. I made a lot of sacrifices, and I have a lot of confidence in myself. I told myself that I had already lifted 128kg in training.]”

Ando’s success, however, meant that it was the end of the road for Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo for what could have been her fifth Summer Games.

The sad turn of events for Hidilyn Diaz came after the 55kg division in the Olympics where she grabbed gold in Tokyo was scrapped, forcing Diaz to move up to the heavier 59kg division.

Diaz-Naranjo was ranked higher than Ando entering the World Cup, but her combined lift of 224kg was surpassed by the rising Filipina lifter. Under new rules, a country may only send one athlete per weight class to the Olympic Games.

Diaz-Narajo lifted a total of 22kg in the World Cup — 99kg in the snatch, and 123kg in the clean-and-jerk. Her total was two kilograms off her best lift, which she achieved in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in September 2023.

Despite failing to make her fifth Olympics, Diaz-Naranjo was grateful for the support she received in Thailand.

“Thank you for supporting me … I’m always grateful,” said Diaz-Naranjo. “Even today, I’m grateful that I have true friends. Kahit manalo, matalo, nandiyan kayo. Maraming salamat sa prayers and support.”

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas President Monico Puentevella congratulated Ando for her feat.

“Ang dami kong pinagdaanan,” said Ando, who revealed that she did not go home to Cebu for four months while preparing for the World Cup — not even for her mother’s death anniversary last March 8.

She is now seeking to bring home a medal in the Paris Games this July. “Ang goal ko sa Paris, gusto ko any color of medal,” said Ando.

Ando, who previously competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, is the second lifter to qualify after John Ceniza. Another Filipina lifter, Rosegie Ramos, is still in contention for a place in the Paris Summer Games as well, although an earlier report Ramos had qualified. 

Later reports, however, stated that Ramos had dropped to 11th in the ranking, making her chance at the Paris Olympics shaky but it was not yet official.

Ramos, who also hails from Zamboanga City, was reported earlier to have  clinched a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Ramos made the mark  during the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup in Phuket, Thailand where she topped the women’s 49 kilograms Group B division with lifts of 87 kg in the snatch and 103 kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 190 kg.

Ramos, 20, is the current Asian junior champion in the 49 kg class.

With the feat, Ramos became the seventh Filipino athletes bound for the Paris Olympics with pole vaulter Ernest J Obiena, gymnasts Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan and boxers Eumir Marcial, Aira Villegas and Nesthy Petecio.

The number of Filipinos bound for Paris may be increased as some weightlifters are still competing in the IWF World Cup in Thailand which started on March 31 and ends on April 11. It is the last of the Olympic qualifiers for the sports.

Also in the tournament are fellow Zamboangueña Kristel Macrohon; Lovely Inan of Angono, Rizal (W49kg.); and Vanessa Sarno of Bohol.

Macrohon and Sarno are both competing in the W71kg. while Diaz and 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games bronze medalist Ando were entered in the W 59kg. category.

The athletes are accompanied by Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella and coaches Antonio Agustin Jr. and Diwa delos Santos (Zamboanga City), Nicolas Jaluag (Bohol), and Christopher Bureros (Cebu City).

Based on the IWF Olympic qualifying rankings, Ceniza is 6th; Sarno, 5th; Diaz, 8th; and Ramos, 9th.

Only the top 10 lifters will earn a quota place and bodyweight category through the IWF Olympic Qualification Ranking tournaments for the period Aug. 1, 2022 to April 28, 2024.

The World Cup will be the first tournament for Diaz after sustaining a knee injury at the 2023 IWF Grand Prix II in Doha, Qatar.

She skipped last month’s Asian Championships where the Philippines bagged two silver medals courtesy of Ramos and Ando.

In the Southeast Asian Games, Sarno won the gold medal in Vietnam (2022) and Cambodia (2023) while Macrohon triumphed in Manila (2019).

Sarno also bagged two medals at the Asian Championships — a gold in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (2020) and a silver in Jinju, South Korea (2023).

Ceniza, 25, got the silver medal at the 2023 World Grand Prix II in Qatar.

He registered a total of 298kg. despite finishing fourth in snatch (133kg.) and fifth in the clean and jerk (165kg.)