RIO Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz is the consensus choice as Philippine flag bearer in its coming campaign in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Turkmenistan.
Monsour del Rosario, the country’s chef de mission to the September 17-27 event, said the 25-year-old weightlifter from Zamboanga deserves to be the face of the Philippine contingent in the quadrennial meet owing to her status as the lone Filipino medal winner in the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Weightlifting is one of 21 events lined up in the showpiece featuring 62 countries around the world.
“Balak namin siyang gawing flag bearer natin because as we all know, she’s our only medal winner in the Rio Olympics, and siyempre, pride ng bayan natin 'yun,” said del Rosario in the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at the Golden Phoenix Hotel.
Diaz already said she will be seeing action in the meet as part of her preparation in the world championship. At the most, she’s just eyeing to win at least a bronze medal amid a tough field that also includes the Olympic gold medal winner from Chinese Taipei and the world record holder from China.
That would be fine for del Rosario, who’s also a congressman from the first district of Makati.
“If she gets a bronze that’s good,” he added. “Asian Games (level yun). It’s not easy.”
Diaz is among the country’s top bets to win medal along those from combat sports as the Filipinos bid to surpass their output during the 2013 edition of the event last held in Incheon, South Korea
The dancesport pair of Gerald Jamili and Cherry Clarice Parcon was responsible for the country’s lone gold in the fourth edition of the meet.
“Ma-equal lang natin yung performance natin four years ago, masaya na ako,” said del Rosario. “Kung ma-surpass natin, i-celebrate natin ito.”
More athletes are being eyed to become part of the Philippine delegation to Turkmenistan as a pre-AIMAG qualifier will also be held fom May 29 to June 2 at Harrison Plaza.
Competition in five sports namely, sambo, kurash, kickboxing, belt, and traditional wrestling will be held during the meet where the winners also get to see action in in Turkmenistan.
Del Rosario believes the Filipinos have very good chances at winning medals of any color in the AIMAG, reason why the qualifiers in the five events are to be held.
‘Tinitingnan ko yung record from the past, and yes, combat sports has a big chance of winning. And I’m basing my assumption on what they have done in the past,” he said..
At the same time, he’s also looking other sports to contribute especially jiu jitsu, dance sport, and taekwondo, which produced gold medals in the past editions of the Asian Beach Games and the Asian Martial Arts Games, respectively.
“But I’m hoping other sports will also strike a medal,” added the former taekwondo Olympian.
Raymund Reyes, assistant chef de mission to del Rosario, along with tournament directors for the pre-AIMAG meet such as Paolo Vitug (sambo), Erwin Marinas (wrestling), Leo Angers (kurash), and Rennie Ross (kickboxing) were also present in the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corp., Golden Phoenix Hotel, Accel, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.