MANILA, Philippines -- Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz is confident that a new generation of lifters will follow in her footsteps, even as she continues to set the standard for her sport in the Philippines.
Diaz, who already has an Olympic silver medal from the Rio Games in 2016 in her collection, is set to qualify for her fourth Summer Games in April when she participates in the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Uzbekistan.
It will be her sixth qualifying tournament, which will secure her spot in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Diaz, 30, is hoping to improve upon her achievement in Rio de Janeiro, and deliver the Philippines' first ever gold medal.
"Ang motivation ko, bakit ako lumalaban pa rin? Kasi alam kong kaya kong manalo," Diaz said during an appearance on the Sports for Women's Empowerment and Employment Program (SWEEP), an online international conference organized by SportPhil.
"Alam kong kaya nating manalong mga Pilipino dito sa Olympics," she stressed.
Credited for paving the way for other Filipina weightlifters, Diaz believes that there will be more Filipinas who can follow in her footsteps and represent the Philippines in the international stage.
She cited the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, where several of her teammates in the national weightlifting team also made the podium. Kristel Macrohon, 24, won the gold in the 71kg division in her first ever SEA Games.
"Sa totoo lang, marami tayo ngayon. Maraming atleta na sumusunod sa akin," said Diaz.
"Noong SEA Games, ang daming babae. Ang daming babae na nanalo ng silver and bronze. Kung titingnan niyo sa numbers, mas maraming kababaihan na nag-medal noong SEA Games," she pointed out.
Aside from Diaz's and Macrohon's golds, Margaret Colonia (59kg) and Elreen Ann Ando (64kg) took home silver medals. Mary Flor Diaz -- Hidilyn's cousin -- won bronze in the 45kg division. Meanwhile, John Ceniza took home the silver in the men's 55kg and former Olympian Nestor Colonia won bronze in the 67kg.
Diaz believes that the Filipinas' haul in the 30th SEA Games is just the beginning.
"Sila ang susunod sa akin," she said. "Pero mas marami pang bata na sumusunod, lalo na sa gym na tinayo ko after winning in the Olympics."
After her historic feat in Rio de Janeiro, Diaz built her own gym in Zamboanga City, and she was proud to report that it has attracted plenty of aspiring lifters -- including more young girls who were inspired by her.
"Ang daming bata, at ang daming kababaihan na naga-attempt mag-weightlift, at nage-excel sila," she said. "Marami na."
Those budding weightlifters will be watching intently as Diaz competes in the Asian Weightlifting Championships, and later, in the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Zamboanga City native said she is ready for what may be her last time competing in the Olympics.
"Kung tatanungin ang preparation, okay na, ready na ako, physically, mentally, emotionally," said Diaz, who has been in Malaysia for the past year. "Na-move lang (ang Olympics) for almost 12 months, pero as an athlete, we don't stop. We never stop."
"Kahit ano mangyari, basta magte-training kami. Lalo na, pinag-uusapin natin dito ay Olympics," she said.
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