There can be only one: Hidilyn’s first Olympic hurdle is Cebu-based teammate
At the recent world championships, Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo got a chance to scout potential rivals from other countries in her quest for a second Olympic gold medal. But before she can think of the Paris 2024 Summer Games, she first has to hurdle an opponent right at home.
Picking the same weight class as Elreen Ann Ando, Diaz-Naranjo will need to outperform her fellow Tokyo Olympian in the Olympic qualifying meets in her bid to seize that lone spot allocated for each country in the women’s 59kg category.
Both elite lifters will clash for the first time at the 2023 Asian Championships on May 3 to 13 in Jinju, South Korea, an Olympic qualifying event where Tokyo gold medalist and Olympic record-holder Kuo Hsing-chun is the heavy favorite.
Diaz-Naranjo, who altered the country’s sports history by winning the first-ever Olympic gold medal for Team Philippines in Tokyo, and the 24-year-old Ando will both grind it out through at least five qualifying tournaments before the Paris Olympics.
“Hidilyn will skip the SEA (Southeast Asian) Games because she wants to focus on 59kg. Since Ando has been competing in the same weight, they will both show up in the Asian championships,’’ said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella.
The 32nd SEA Games is set May 5 to May 17 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Diaz-Naranjo, the current world champion and SEA Games gold medalist in the women’s 55kg, was forced to move up the scales after her usual weight class was scrapped while Ando slid from 64kg, which was likewise removed from the Paris program.
“It’s a different ballgame for Hidilyn as she’s now forced to leave the 55kg category that she won in Tokyo, as the International Weightlifting Federation changes the weights every four years,’’ said Puentevella.
“This also means that Hidilyn will now fight for this Olympic slot against our very own Olympian, Cebu’s Elreen Ando, who also represented us in the last Tokyo Olympics,’’ added the newly elected Asian Weightlifting Federation vice president.
“Hidilyn is focused again. And when she’s determined, she’s the biggest threat in town. Their first duel in South Korea will be a fight of the titans which everyone must see, as only one will make it to Paris next year,’’ said Puentevella.
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