Seeing Asian Games field gives PH lifters target to hit in Olympics


Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo has something to smile about despite dropping out of the medal race in weightlifting. —ASIAN GAMES POOL

HANGZHOU, CHINA—After getting a good look at the Chinese lifters they believe will be the ones to beat in the Paris Olympics, Filipino bets will resume work and figure out ways to overcome them.

John Febuar Ceniza narrowly missed the podium in the 19th Asian Games here, running second in the snatch only to falter in the clean and jerk to end up fourth in the men’s 61-kilogram category.

Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo measured herself against the best in the women’s 59-kg class where the Tokyo Olympic gold medalist found out that she’s still way behind after finishing a badly beaten fourth.

The same notion also hit Elreen Ann Ando, who snared the bronze medal in the women’s 64-kg division on Monday night to be Philippine weightlifting’s saving grace.

“What we saw here will help us prepare for our target in the Paris Olympics. It was quite evident that China remains the yardstick in the world,’’ said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella.

Ceniza and Diaz-Naranjo have completed three out of the five qualification tournaments required to secure Olympic berths in Paris next year, while Ando and former Asian champion Vanessa Sarno still have a lot to catch up on.

The 19-year-old Sarno, bidding for an Olympic debut in Paris, will compete in the women’s 76-kg on Thursday.

North Korean lifters have yanked the rug from under the Chinese in these Games, but Puentevella believes that they won’t have a chance of even appearing in the Olympics after refusing to undergo regular doping tests.

“If the North Koreans won’t be allowed in the Olympics, we have a better chance. John (Ceniza) could move up to bronze or even silver without them,’’ said Puentevella.

“It’s the same thing with either Ando and Hidi (Diaz-Naranjo).’’

Ando and Diaz-Naranjo will contest the lone PH slot in the women’s 59-kg in Paris with three more qualification tournaments to go.

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The Chinese dominated in the last Olympics in Tokyo with Diaz-Naranjo managing to avert a sweep of the eight divisions.

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