MANILA, Philippines -- After Hidilyn Diaz made history in Tokyo as the Philippines' first-ever Olympic gold medalist, the local weightlifting federation is determined to sustain the sport's momentum.
According to Monico Puentevella, president of the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP), at least four female lifters are already set to follow in Diaz's footsteps.
These are Elreen Ando -- who already made her Olympic debut in Tokyo -- Vanessa Sarno, Kristel Macrohon, and Rosegie Ramos.
"In Paris, in three years' time, I am already praying that we will have a medal, because I already have four girls waiting in the wings," Puentevella said on Tuesday at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
Ando won a silver in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, and ahead of the Olympics she bagged two silvers and a bronze in the Asian Weightlifting Championships. In Tokyo, she emerged seventh overall in a field of seven athletes in the women's 64kg class.
Macrohon, meanwhile, won gold in the 71kg class in the SEA Games, and then moved up to the 76kg division in the Asian championships where she got two bronzes.
Ramos, who is only 16 years old, is a protégé of Diaz from Zamboanga City.
But it's Sarno, a native of Bohol, who is perhaps the most promising of the four. At only 17 years old, she won two golds and a silver in the Asian weightlifting tilt, and was initially tipped as a possible wild card entry for the Tokyo Games.
"Si Vanessa Sarno is the Asian champion now at 17 years of age," noted Puentevella. "Si Elreen Ando, nakapasok na siya sa mata ng karayom."
All four athletes are capable of winning medals in the 2024 Paris Olympics, the weightlifting chief assured.
Diaz herself has not ruled out a possible fight Olympics stint, and Puentevella is confident that she will win another medal in Paris should she choose to compete.
"Sa babae, I can foresee, magme-medalya ulit doon sa Paris," he said.
As for the country's male lifters, Puentevella hopes to qualify two to the 2024 Olympics, including John Ceniza who won a silver in the 2019 SEA Games.
"For me, to qualify for the Olympics would make me happy. As to win a medal, I'm not too sure, kasi talagang malakas ang laban sa lalaki," he admitted.
What's certain for Puentevella is that all the aspiring lifters will have to go through the same preparation that Diaz did in order to succeed at the highest level of the sport. This means that they will have to make the same sacrifices as Diaz, and compete in several international events in order to gain the necessary experience.
Puentevella is already planning for the athletes to compete in the World Championships in Lima, Peru this November to get their journey started. He assured that it will be fine even if they do not make the podium, as it is all part of the process.
"Sabi ko kila Elreen at 'yung mga bata, kung gusto niyong mag-gold medalist or silver medalist gaya ni Hidilyn, umiyak kayo muna ng husto," Puentevella said.
"Dumaan kayo sa karayom, kasi ang pagkatalo ni Hidilyn sa Beijing, sa London, napakasama. Iyak ng iyak. 'Yun ang nagbigay ng lakas sa kanya," he added.