By Peter Atencio
Tokyo Olympics’ gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz is happy and proud to have a hand in the development of 16-year-old weightlifter Albert Ian delos Santos.
The bespectacled Delos Santos was one of the two Filipino lifters, who won a gold medal in the 11th World Weightlifting Youth Championships over the weekend in the men’s 61kg class at the Olympic Park in Durres, Albania. Prince Keil delos Santos won the other overall gold medal when he ruled the men’s 49kg division.
“Ang dami niyang iniisip, kinakabahan. Sabi ko sa kanya, mag-enjoy ka lang. Mine-message ko kasi siya sa chat,” said Diaz, who has been encouraging Delos Santos before he went into action that day.
Diaz talked about her involvement with members of the Philippine team, which won two golds and three silvers overall, to go with a 7-4-1 gold-silver-bronze in individual performance.
She was with boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday when they were named brand ambassadors at Alaxan’s Showdown of the Year held at the Unilab Bayanihan Center, Pioneer St., Mandaluyong.
Albert, the son of national coach Alvin delos Santos, won three individual golds, hoisting 100 kilos in the snatch, lifting 149 kilos in the clean and jerk for a total tally of 249 kilos in the meet organized by the International Weightlifting Federation.
He was among a selected few lifters, who trained with Diaz and her husband Julius Naranjo last year in Jalajala, Rizal.
“Kasama namin siya sa training. So nu’ng nag-training siya, nag-improve siya at lumakas,” said Diaz. “They are training hard para makamit ang kanilang mga pangarap.”
Diaz will skip the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games so can join numerous qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
With one year left before the Olympiad, the 32-year-old Diaz said she will seek out a slot in a higher weight category, alongside Cebuana Olympian Elreen Ando in the women’s 59-kg category.
Two other female lifters, and group of newcomers in the men’s division, will also vie for slots in a series of qualifiers for the Olympics this year, starting in May.
She and Ando will go for an Olympic seat together in the 59-kg class in an Asian meet in Jinju, South Korea, from May 3 to 13.
Since the meet is close to the date of the SEA Games, Diaz won’t be able to join the biennial meet,
Even the date of Asian Games is near the schedule of another Olympic qualifier. And because Diaz needs to recover her strength, she will also miss out on the Asiad.
Other qualifiers slated late this year are in Tunis, Tunisia, the Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands from November 20 to 24, the 2023 IWF Grand Prix I in Havana, Cuba from June 2 to 12, and the 2023 IWF Grand Prix II in Doha, Qatar in early December.