OUTRIGHT QUALIFIER

Lifter Diaz boosts Olympic side to 9

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A neophyte in the last Olympics, weightlifting’s Hidilyn Diaz is expected to be a contender in her second stint in sports’ biggest stage.

The lifter from Zamboanga City earned a slot in the London Olym-pics—the ninth for the country—after ranking No. 9 in the world following a series of strong performances in qualifying tournaments held in France and South Korea.

Weightlifting chief Monico Puentevella confirmed that Diaz, at 16 the youngest lifter in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, made it to the July 27 to Aug. 12 Games after the International Weightlifting Federation announced her inclusion in the top 10 yesterday.

Puentevella said the top 10 lifters in the world automatically qualify for the Olympics.

“It’s clearly not a wild card berth,” said Puentevella, also chair of the Philippine Olympic Committee. “She made it following a meritorious performance in the IWF qualifying rounds.”

Diaz will compete in the women’s 58-kilogram category.

“I thank the MVP Sports Foundation and the Philippine Sports Commission for their support to our association,” said Puentevella.

The early Olympic qualifiers are boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, BMX rider Daniel Caluag, track and field’s Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Khing Lacuna, and shooter Brian Rosario.

Philippine chef de mission Manny Lopez said the target is to book at least 10 athletes to the Olympiad where the country has never won a medal since 1996, when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco brought home a silver from the Atlanta Games.

“We’re still on track and we have three weeks to work on it,” said Lopez, also the first vice president of the POC, which set a deadline for the final Philippine lineup in the first week of July.

Lopez said women’s boxing is hoping for a wild-card berth while archery and swimming still have qualifying events coming up.

To boost the campaign for a medal, the POC is sending Barriga, Rosario, Alkhaldi and Lacuna to a pre-Olympic training camp in London beginning June 29 with  Torres and Herrera following them a week later.

Hoshina decided to train in Tokyo and will fly to the Olympics on July 19. Caluag, the country’s brightest hope for a medal, will hone his skills in the Netherlands before proceeding to London.

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