Mendoza: Never designed for Hidilyn

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Al Mendoza.
Al Mendoza.Al Mendoza.

“Paris was not to be.” Thus, said Hidilyn Diaz after failing to make it to the Paris Olympic Games set in July-August this year, effectively scuttling her attempt to duplicate her historic gold medal win in the 2020 Tokyo Olympiad that ended an almost 100-year wait for the Philippines’ first ever Olympic victory.

The qualifier that dismissed Hidilyn’s Summer Games bid was the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup in Phuket, Thailand, last week.

But the event wasn’t designed for Hidilyn from the very start.

The 59-kg category in the Phuket qualifier wasn’t her turf. She was chiefly forced into it after the 55-kg event—her bread and butter—got scrapped by the IWF.

“IWF changes all categories every four years,” Monico Fuentebella, president of Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas, told me yesterday. “That’s to avoid monopoly.”

Hidilyn could only finish 11th in Phuket, missing the Olympic slot by one rung as only the Top 10 finishers get tickets to Paris.

But here’s the catch. Even if Hidilyn ended 10th, she would still not qualify for Paris since her compatriot Elreen Ann Ando would dislodge her due to an IWF ruling that only one lifter from every category can represent a country in the Olympics.

Ando was seventh in Phuket, the same finish she accomplished in the 64-kg in 2020 Tokyo.

The 25-year-old Ando went down to 59-kg after the IWF scrapped 64-kg, essentially elbowing Hidilyn out.

“We have a good bet in Ando for Paris,” said Fuentebella. “As for Hidilyn, she can always be our national coach.”

What a great gesture from Fuentebella, called Nyuks by those dear to him.

Indeed, with her vast experience, Hidilyn, a four-time Olympian, which is unparalleled in Philippine lore, would make a good coach.

Although she had forgettable stints in her first two Olympic forays, Hidilyn showed her true worth when she won silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympiad that set her up to the gold-winning ways in 2020 Tokyo.

“I love this sport,” said Hidilyn, who earned millions following her Tokyo triumph. “I need to take a good rest and think about the next priorities in my life.”

Like having a family—finally?

By the way, she just got married. At 33, she’s got it all, including nailing a college diploma only recently. Amazing.


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