WEIGHTLIFTER Hidilyn Diaz leaves for the pre-London Olympics training camp Sunday , hopeful the experience will help her do a lot better as she makes her second foray into the world’s greatest sporting show.
One of seven children by a tricycle driver who fell in love with the sport at the young age of 11, Diaz departs for Hong Kong en route to London on board a Cathay Pacific plane, accompanied by long-time coach Tony Agustin.
The young lady weightlifter is availing of a free training camp introduced for the first time in the Olympics, and will join shooter Brian Rosario and swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna who made up the first group of Filipino athletes to leave for the camp to be held in world class facilities.
Like the rest of her teammates in the 11-member Team Philippines to the Olympics, Diaz is not overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge facing her.
“I’ve worked hard to get this far. I’m ready to compete,” said Diaz in Filipino on the eve of her departure for London.
“You can never tell. My coach and I spent a lot of time and effort to make it here. I know I will perform better this time,” added the Zamboanga City native.
Team Philippines chief of mission Manny Lopez has good, kind words for Hidilyn.
“I saw in Hidilyn the will to succeed and become big in her sport. I hope she’ll reap the rewards of her no-nonsense buildup,” said Lopez on the sidelines of the send-off party accorded to the Olympic team early in the week.
As a very young girl of 16, Diaz carried the national colors in the Beijing Olympics where she wound up 11th in a field of 12 with a lift of 85 in the snatch and 107 in the clean and jerk for a 192 total, a far cry from the winning effort of 244 of China’s Chen Yanquing.
Set to compete in the 58-kilogram division, Hidilyn made it to the Olympics for the second straight time following strong showings in a pair of qualifying tournaments by the International Weighlifting Federation in Paris, France and Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
Diaz, the first Filipino lifter in 20 years to carry the national colors in two straight Summer Games, eventually ranked No. 9 in her division to qualify since the top 10 lifters in each category automatically get an Olympic berth.
She’s improving as could be gleaned from the results of the two qualifiers where the finest, strongest in the sport saw action led by Beijing Olympics champion Chen Yanqing and reigning Asian titlist Zhun Jun, both from China.
In the South Korea qualifier, she made 95 kilos in the snatch and 119 kgs.in the clean and jerk for a 214 total to finish a fighting fourth, a vast improvement from her seventh-place windup in the Paris tournament.
“I’m competing practically against the same set of opponents I competed against in the qualifiers. I’m familiar with them now and I’m not intimidated anymore,” Diaz said.
On Wednesday, long jumper Marestella Torres, on her second Olympics like Hidilyn, and long distance runner Rene Herrera will leave for London along with coach Joseph Sy to join Diaz, Alkhaldi, Rosario and Lacuna in the training camp that’s expected to last for three weeks.
The next day, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga joins them, along with coach Roel Velasco.