Ando ends Diaz’ reign

Joey Villar - The Philippine Star
Ando ends Diaz� reign
Elreen Ando.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines —  The glorious Hidilyn Diaz era has ended.

But the journey of new promising Philippine lifters is just about to take off.

One of them is Cebuana Elreen Ando who beat Diaz in a showdown in the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand Wednesday night – a bittersweet moment for the Philippines, seeing the fall of the longtime queen and the rise of the new star.

In winning the deciding face-off, Ando claimed the Olympic ticket sought by Diaz for a shot at another Olympic podium honors after snatching the silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and the gold in Tokyo in 2021.

Only one athlete per country can qualify in any weight division and Diaz, who won gold at Tokyo in the now-scrapped 55kg division, finished 11th on 222kg after failing with her final two clean-and-jerk attempts to match Ando’s total (228kg for seventh).

Diaz has lifted at every Olympics since Beijing in 2008 but will be 37 when the Los Angeles Games take place in 2028.

Beaten and denied a fifth Olympic appearance, the mercurial Diaz would nonetheless be forever adored by a grateful nation.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino, praised Diaz for her unflagging spirit.

“All the praise and applause to Hidilyn Diaz for her unwavering competitive spirit and sportsmanship,” said Tolentino.

Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella saluted Diaz.

“More than 20 years ago, we started with one, then two in Brazil and Tokyo, and now three and four to be confirmed officially by the International Weightlifting Federation in a month’s time,” he said.

“We now have new kids on the block, and yet, even with the loss of our Tokyo gold medalist Hidilyn, please remember that she inspired these new lifters.

“She did her best and we all thank her for her great contribution to our Olympic sport,” he added.

The sport given tremendous boost by Diaz is now assured of at least three Phl bets in the Paris Olympics – Ando, Rosegie Ramos and John Febuar Ceniza.

One more lifter, wonder girl Vanessa Sarno, is still to wade into battle in the women’s 71kg.

Diaz is out, but promised to continue lifting.

“I will still lift, but I’m not sure for the next Olympics,” said Diaz in an interview with Agence France-Presse. “Right now, I have to enjoy the moment. I will pursue what I have started, training and serving our athletes in the future.”

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