Tokyo—Elreen Ando could not replicate teammate Hidilyn Diaz’s golden performance the previous night, placing 7th in a field of 10 in the women’s 64kg weightlifting competition of the Summer Olympic Games at the Tokyo International Forum here on Tuesday.
But it was all right. After all, Diaz took three Olympics before she could muster silver, four before clinching gold.
Targeting the 2024 Paris Olympics but thrust to these Tokyo games three years earlier, the 22-year-old Ando showed promise as she raised 100 kgs in the snatch and 122 in the clean and jerk for a 222-kg total.
But it was not enough compared to the 236-kg total of champion Moude Charron of Canada, the 232 of Italy’s Giorgia Bordignon, and the 230 of Chinese Taipei’s Chen Wen-Huei.
“Elreen is our project for 2024 Olympics, together with Vanessa Sarno. Magaling lang talaga kaya nasama na kaagad sa Tokyo,” said weightlifting chief Monico Puentevella.
Also on Tuesday, Filipino-Japanese Kiyomi Watanabe lost to Spain’s Cristina Cabana Perez, 1-0, in the women’s under-63 kg elimination round of judo on Tuesday.
This leaves 10 out of the 19 Filipino Olympians still in the running for golds – boxers Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, Carlo Paalam and birthday girl Irish Magno; golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdangan and Juvic Pagunsan, trackster Kristina Knott, pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, and gymnast Carlos Yulo.
Meanwhile, newly minted Olympic weightlifting champion Diaz thanked those who were a part of her Olympic glory.
“The journey to the Olympic gold medal wasn’t easy, but it was made possible by the people behind Team Diaz, the government (Philippine Sports Commission), the private sponsors, and the Philippine Olympic Committee for giving us athletes the opportunity to be here in the Olympics,” she said
The 30-year-old Diaz slept just two hours before attending an early morning Zoom conference from the Tokyo Olympics Village on Tuesday morning.
“Good morning, thank you, God,” added Diaz, who ended the country’s nearly century-old gold medal quest that began in the Paris 1924 Olympics.
Diaz lifted 97 kgs in the snatch en route to two new Olympic records—127 kgs in clean and jerk and 224 kgs in the total lift—to win the gold.
“Here’s the lady that we’ve waited for the past 97 years,” said POC President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.
Diaz’s gold brought the country’s total Olympic haul to one gold, three silver, and seven bronze medals. In the current medal tally, the Philippines sits at No. 20 behind frontrunners US (9-5-8 gold-silver-bronze), China (9-5-7) and host Japan (8-3-5).
Diaz was in tears when Mikee Cojuangco Jaworksi, the International Olympic Committee’s Representative to the Philippines, handed her medal and the winner’s bouquet.
Tolentino, POC secretary-general lawyer Edwin Gastanes, PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and his chief of staff, Marc Velasco, were holding back tears while filming the historic event off stage. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
And when the Lupang Hinirang was played and the country’s colors were raised for the very first time in Olympic history, all emotions went loose.
“What a feeling this is, to savor the Philippines’ first gold,” Velasco said, wiping away tears.
Team Diaz—Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, and psychologist Karen Trinidad—stayed long after the venue was cleared, taking selfies and groupies on the stage along with a handful Filipino reporters who chronicled the most significant feat in Philippine sports history.
“Nothing is impossible, even in this pandemic,” added Diaz in the press conference, where she was also joined by chef de mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Gao, Naranjo, and Gastanes.
“We were able to do this amid the pandemic when the risk was there, ready to strike any of us,” she said.