Diaz Diaz: Dreaming of Olympics gold.

SWP: Chasing the Olympic dream in Tokyo and beyond

June 19, 2021 Ed Andaya 1502 views
Ando: First-time Olympian.
Puentevella
Puentevella: Architect of SWP’s success.

REGARDLESS of what happens in Tokyo, Hidilyn Diaz stands to become the country’s greatest Olympian ever.

In fact, Diaz is widely expected to bring home either the gold, silver or bronze medal in weightlifting in the world’s biggest sporting stage.

Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella is making the guarantee.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on Hidilyn, but I can predict that at least we’ll have a medal in Tokyo,” said Puentevella during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Thursday.

Puentevella, one of the country’s longest-serving sports officials, claimed Diaz has a big chance of winning the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal since joining in Paris in 1924.

This will be the fourth straight Olympic appearance for the 30-year-old Diaz, who brought home a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“If not gold, it’s silver or bronze medal for Hidililyn. She is now No. 2 in the world. Wag lang magkasakit, magkakaroon uli ng medalya ang Pilipinas sa weightlifting,” said Puentevella during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusement (GAB).

Puentevella, who also served as president of the Asian Weightlifting Federation and director of the International Weightlifting Federation, said Diaz’s biggest rival for the gold is Liao Quiyun of China, who holds the world’s clean and jerk record of 128 kgs.

“Sa tingin ko, silang dalawa (Diaz and Liao) ang maglalaban sa gold. It’s very exciting moment in weightlifting. As I’ve said, anything can happen in Tokyo. Pero I am sure, Hidilyn will go down in history as the country’s most bemedaled Olympian,” added Puentevella, who also served as commissioner of the PSC from 1996 to 2001.

Puentevella’s guarded optimism is founded on Diaz’s long training and preparation designed by the SWP and supported by the PSC.

“I think Hidilyn is more ready this time in Tokyo than she was in Rio. She really prepared long and hard. Kumpleto ang team nya. May nutritionist, may Filipino at may Chinese coach. Kaya ang sabi ko, she trained very hard, let God do the rest.

Puentevella, however, said he is not putting any pressure on Diaz.

“I assure you I am not putting any pressure on Hidilyn. I do not want her to think na kapag hindi niya nakuha ang gold, kawawa ang Pilipinas. I just want her to enjoy what God will give on her fourth straight Olympic stint,” said Puentevella, who was elected as Bacolod Representative from 2001 to 2007 and Mayor from 2013 to 2016.

Added Puentevella: “I was with her when she was only 17 years old in her first Olympics in Beijing in 2008. We both cried when we failed to win a medal. We cried again in London dahil masama ang naging performance in 2012. In Rio, we also both cried but those were already tears of joy.”

“Kapag nanalo siya ng Olympic gold sa Tokyo, puwede na rin akong mag-retiro.”

The Tokyo Olympics could also be Diaz’s last hurrah.

“Hidilyn will compete for the country for the last time in the 2021 Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam. I think she plans to get married and settle down and I’m really happy for her. If she decides to retire from competing, I will get her as national coach. No one else is more qualified for the job,” said Puentevella.

Asked about SWP’s grassroots development program, Puentevella said there are already a lot of weightlifters ready to follow Diaz’s footsteps.

One of them is Cebu pride Elreen Ando.

“Watch out also for Elreen Ando. She’s only 22 years old. Sa totoo lang, inaasahan ko talaga na makakapasok siya sa Olympics, but I did not expect na sa Tokyo pa lang ay maglalaro na siya. Ang akala ko nga sa Paris (in 2024) pa sya makakapasok,” said Puentevella.

Si Ando, dumaan talaga na yan sa butas ng karayom. I’ll tell you a secret. Sa SEA Games, na-disqualify yan dahil nasa barbel na siya pero naabutan siya ng time limit. Hindi alam ng lahat pero bumagsak ako dun at talagang napaiyak dahil I know how these kids really trained hard. Gaya ni Sen. (Manny) Pacquiao, talagang mahirap ang pinanggalingan. Sports is their stepping stone to a better life. She was silver medalist in the SEA Games but she could easily have been the gold medalist.”

“Sa Paris, hindi lang siguro dalawa kundi apat or lmang babae at isang lalaki ang papsok sa atin. Nandiyan si Vanessa Sarno ng Bohol, si Rosegie Ramos at si Kristel Macrohon. Yan talaga ang pangarap ko para sa Paris Olympics.”

“Pero sa ngayon, may kinahaharap pa na problema ang weightlifting regarding anti-doping. If everything goes well sa IOC, I’m sure weightlifting will still be included sa Paris.”

“Puentevella thanked the PSC, headed by Chairman William Ramirez, Sen. Pacquiao and the MVP Sports Foundation of Manny V. Pangilinan, for their continued support to weightlifting.

“Bukod sa Panginoon, nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa PSC at kay Chairman Ramirez, nagpapasalamat ako kay. Sen. Manny Pacquiao, nagpapasalamat ako sa mga private sponsors, gaya ng MVP Sports Foundation ni Manny Panglinan at Ayala Group sa kanilang walang-sawang pag-suporta sa weightlifting. Dati hindi kami talaga napapansin kumpara sa basketball at iba pang mga laro.

Tabi-tabi lang kami muna. Pero pag Olympics, sikat naman kami,” added Puentevella.

In Tokyo, Puentevella and the SWP hope to be in the front pages again.

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