MANILA, Philippines -- Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz was apologetic after the Asian Weightlifting Championships on Sunday, where she failed to make it to the podium.
In an interview with Noel Ferrer shown via Instagram Live after the event, Diaz said: "Gusto ko lang mag-sorry sa lahat na 'yung expectation nila, hindi ko nagawa."
Diaz was competing in a physical event for the first time in over a year, after having taken part in a few online contests last year. The continental championships, held in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent, served as the final qualifying event for Diaz that sealed her spot in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Her combined lift of 212kg put her in fourth place behind China's Liao Qiuyun (222kg), China's Li Yajun (221kg), and local lifter Muattar Nabieva (213kg) in the 55kg division.
Diaz blew a chance to make the podium after no-lifting her second and third attempts in the clean and jerk of 121kg and 122kg, respectively.
Though disappointed not to have won a medal, Diaz said the experience was a fruitful one as she not only claimed a berth for her fourth consecutive Olympics, but also saw how much work was left to be done with some three months to go before the Summer Games.
"'Yung sa akin naman kasi, I do my best, and hindi nagtatapos ang laban natin, ng mga Pilipino dito. Kasi Asian Championship is only (a) tune-up," she explained.
"Ang dami ko pang kailangang gawin," Diaz added. "Kailangan ko pang bugbugin ang sarili ko sa training. I think 'yun 'yung maganda sa larong ito, na natalo ako, pero ang dami kong natutunan."
Diaz was admittedly nervous during the contest -- as evidenced by her no-lift in her first attempt of 90kg in the snatch.
"Sa totoo lang noong first attempt ko sa 90(kg) hindi ko alam ang feeling na pagdating sa platform. Siyempre 14 months na rin na walang laro. Sobrang kaba ko," she pointed out.
She got her bearings in her next two lifts, clearing 90kg and 94kg to put herself in a good position heading into the clean and jerk. She cleared 118kg in her first attempt, but faltered in the second and third.
Diaz said it took just "one second of doubt" for her to make a mistake in the second clean and jerk attempt.
"Noong 121(kg) iniisip ko na ang technique ko pero nagkaroon ako ng one second of doubt lang, pagdating sa jerk. Parang, dito, biglang hindi ko nagawa," she said.
"Sabi ko, kailangan ko pa ng more muscle memory at more confidence, at kailangan ko talaga nitong laro, para mas lalong makilala ko 'yung sarili ko pagdating sa laro," she added.
The competition also gave Diaz an opportunity to scout her competition for the Olympics. Diaz expects the lifters in the Asian Weightlifting Championships to also figure in the Olympics, though she is unsure who between the two Chinese lifters will earn a spot.
Each country can only send one lifter per weight class.
Liao is currently ranked second in the 55kg division, while Li is fourth. Diaz is in fifth place behind four Chinese lifters, followed by Uzbekistan's Nabieva.
"Ang top eight dito, mostly 'yung top eight dito na naglaro, sila ang mga makakalaban ko (sa Olympics)," said Diaz. "Pero isang China lang. Nakita ko kung saan ang lakas niya."
Diaz told Ferrer that she intends to return to Malaysia in the coming days. She stayed in Kuala Lumpur for the past year, after getting stuck there ahead of a competition in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diaz plans to plunge right back to work once she returns to Kuala Lumpur.
"Itong laro dito sa Asian Weightlifting Championships, parati ko sinasabi na tune-up lang ito," she said. "Malaking bagay sa akin na natalo ako. Malaking bagay din na marami akong natutunan today. Kahit natalo ako, nandiyan pa rin kayo na sinusuportahan ako at naniniwala na kaya kong manalo sa Olympics, na kaya nating mga Pilipino na manalo sa Olympics."
Diaz, who already owns a silver medal from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, is the seventh Filipino athlete to secure a spot in the Olympics. She joins boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and gymnast Caloy Yulo.