Rio Olympics weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz has not seen action in a competitive environment for quite a while.
But her appetite for glory has not diminished a bit.
More than a year after saving the Philippines from shutout campaign with a silver medal output in Rio de Janeiro, Diaz will carry the country’s pride once again as she leads Team Pilipinas to do battle in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) slated on September 17-27 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
“Nakasuot ulet ng official jacket ng Philippine Team delegation going to AIMAG 2017 Turkmenistan, sobrang proud na ire-present ang Philippines sa AIMAG,” she said in her social media post.
The proud daughter of Zamboanga City will be the flag-carrier when the 108- strong contingent marches in the opening-day show for the quadrennial sports conclave featuring the best athletes from 61 countries in Asia and Oceania.
After becoming the country’s only fourth silver medal in Olympic history, Diaz became the toast of this country that’s still waiting for its first athlete who will be blessed with a golden medal.
Diaz’s life made a sudden turnaround, earning her millions of pesos of cash bonuses, product endorsement contracts, and speaking engagement. Still, her feet remained on the ground and continued training in spite of the perks that greeted her Olympic victory.
Diaz won the silver medal in Rio in the women’s 53-kg category behind Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Shu-ching, the gold medal winner.
This maybe an Asian level competition but world class athletes in her event are participating, including Hsu, and China’s Li Yajun, who was the frontrunner in their event in Rio before she was scratched out of the contest for failing in her third and final attempt.
“Medyo mabigat po ang laban dito, kaya laban lang po,” she added, saying she will try to again make her best of 200kg total lift that she did in the Olympics.
“Nabuhat ko dati! Mabubuhat ko yan sa sept 19,” said Diaz, who is scheduled to compete on the said date. “Tiwala lang kay God.”
This will be a very important event for Diaz to assess if she can still give it another shot at the 2020 Olympics that will take place in Tokyo.
Joining Diaz in Turkmenistan are the bunch of golden heroes in the recent Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asian Games like Eric Shawn Cray of athletics, Rubilen Amit and Carlo Viado of billiards, Samuel Thomas Morrison and Kirstie Elaine Alora in the Philippine team that will compete in 27 out of the 31 sports disciplines.
Also with them are the returning power couple from Cebu, Gerald Jamili and Cherry Clarice Parcon, who will be back to defend their crown in dancesport’s jive event they won in 2013 edition in Incheon, South Korea.
The pair also bagged a bronze medal in another event while Amit took the bronze in the women’s 10 ball event. Also in the delegation is chess grandmaster Eugene Torre.
Among the events to be competed are chess, futsal, tennis, muay thai, kickboxing, sambo, kurash, jiu jitsu, bowling, cycling (track), indoor athletics, weightlifting (Powerlifting), taekwondo (WTF), dance sport, belt wrestling, wrestling (FS/Greco Roman), at cue sport (Billiards and Snooker).
Former Olympian Monsour Del Rosario, is the chef the mission.
“I will do my best to lead them to battle,” said Del Rosario, who is also the secretary-general of the Philippine Taekwondo Association.
But the one-time Asian taekwondo champion added they will be hard-pressed to equal if not surpass the Philippines’ finish fours ago where it came home with a gold and two bronze medals courtesy of dancesport.
“All I’m hoping for is to equal the last National Team 4 years ago.. .except for the fact the last time they competed against 40 countries only.”
According to deputy chef de mission Raymund Lee Reyes, the compact delegation was carefully scrutinized to come up with the cream of the crop.
“Mataas po ang standard criteria na ginamit namin para mapili ang mga atletang ipadadala natin. Yung mga gold and silver medal sa world championship at sa SEA Games automatic po kasama sa team,” said Reyes, who is also secretary-general of the Philippine Karate-do Federation.
Dave Carter, president of the Judo Federation of the Philippines, said the competition is far stiffer than the SEA Games “but we are confident that our athletes will deliver.”
Among the countries participating are from Asia as well as Ocenia nations like Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, at Vanuatu.
The Philippine Sports Commission has allotted P30 million for the trip of the Philippine delegation, including their uniforms, allowances, and equipment.
“Basta laban lang para sa bayan,” said Raul Dominic ‘Dino’ Badilla, chief of staff of PSC chairman William Ramirez.
The bulk of the Phl delegation will depart on Sept. 14 via Philippine Airlines chartered flight direct to Turkmenistan.
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