MANILA, Philippines -- The president of the country's weightlifting federation is hopeful that Hidilyn Diaz will not be the lone Filipino lifter in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in July.
While Diaz is assured of her spot in the Summer Games after participating in the Asian Weightlifting Championships last week, two more lifters may also qualify by virtue of their rankings.
According to Monico Puentevella, president of the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP), Kristel Macrohon and Elreen Ando both stand a chance of booking their tickets to the Tokyo Games as well.
"Feeling ko baka maka-chamba 'tong dalawa. Kasi maganda rin ang showing nila sa world championships sa Rome, maganda rin dito… baka may pag-asa," he added.
Fourteen lifters compete in each weight category in the Olympics. These are composed of the top eight lifters in the world rankings, the top lifter in continental rankings, and either the lifter from the host nation or a lifter who got in via a Tripartite Commission Invitation.
Currently, Ando ranks 26th in the 64kg category, although her result from last week's competition will still be taken into account. Ando placed second overall in her weight class, winning two silvers and a bronze.
Macrohon, meanwhile, is ranked 30th in the 76kg division. She placed third at the continental championships last week, bringing home two bronzes.
Aside from Macrohon and Ando, Puentevella is also looking to send teenage lifter Vanessa Sarno to the Tokyo Games as a wild card participant.
Sarno, still just 17 years old, was the breakout star for the Philippines at the Asian Weightlifting Championships. She topped the 71kg category, winning two golds and a silver. Puentevella has already dubbed the teenager as the heir apparent to Diaz.
"I'm even asking for a wild card eh, kung pwede lang, gusto ko ma-wild card si Sarno eh. Kung pwede lang eh," he said.
"That is how I started (with) Hidilyn," he pointed out.
Diaz was also a teenager when she first competed in the Olympics, having been a wild card entry in Beijing in 2008. Eight years later in Rio de Janeiro, Diaz ended the Philippines' 20-year medal drought with a silver medal.
Puentevella believes an appearance in the Tokyo Games will be crucial for Sarno's development as a lifter.
"Tinatrabaho ko sana. Sana, huwag lang mahigpit masyado ang Hapon, maka-wild card sana si Sarno," he said. "Like Hidilyn in Beijing, hindi ako nag-expect na mananalo, pero if she can fight against the best in the world (now), then in Paris, she'll go for the gold."
Before her gold medal feat in the Asian Weightlifting Championships, Sarno also triumphed in the Youth World Cup, a virtual event held last November. In 2019, she won two golds and a silver in the Asian Youth and Junior weightlifting competition held in North Korea.
At the moment, seven Filipino athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics: Diaz, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, and boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Carlo Paalam, and Nesthy Petecio.