Sports

Still the queen, POC chief tells Hidilyn Diaz

MANILA – The country will always be proud of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz despite her failure to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

“You’re still the queen,” Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino assured Diaz, who missed out on a fifth straight Olympic stint. “You are still our champion. You deserve all the honor and respect for giving our country its first gold medal.”

Diaz, 33, finished 11th in the women’s 59 kg category of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup, the final Olympic qualifying event, in Phuket, Thailand on Wednesday night.

The 59 kg Olympic slot for the Philippines went to 25-year-old Elreen Ando, who finished seventh overall.

Only one representative per country per weight category in the top 10 will make the Olympics.

“’I’m sorry, Cong, I’m sorry,’ she repeatedly told me,” Tolentino said, as posted on social media.

“You don’t have to say sorry, again, anak (child). You’re still the queen, a legend,” he told a tearful Diaz.

Diaz bagged silver in 2016 Rio de Janeiro (53 kg) and gold in Tokyo in 2021 (for the 2020 edition) in the 55 kg.

She was a wildcard in 2008 Beijing where she wound up 11th and didn’t place in 2012 London, where she was also the flagbearer. She competed in the 58 kg both times.

Diaz had to move up to the higher weight class after Paris organizers scrapped the 55 kg event.

Cebu’s Ando, a bronze medalist at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games, will be making her second straight Olympic trip in the company of fellow weightlifters John Ceniza and Rosegie Ramos; world No. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena; gymnasts Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan; and boxers Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, and Aira Villegas.

Ramos is within the top 10 in the women’s 49 kg in Phuket but has yet to formalize her Paris stint. Based on the POC’s calculations, her spot is secured. (Jean Malanum/PNA)