Hidilyn Diaz formalized her entry into the Tokyo Olympics with her participation in the ongoing Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Although she narrowly missed a podium finish, Diaz knows it was an important step towards her ultimate goal.
"I think it's a great accomplishment. Qualifying for the Olympics once is already hard enough now I'm about to compete in my fourth, especially now that we are in the middle of the pandemic," said Diaz in Filipino.
Days after her stint in Uzbekistan, the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist admitted that she had to deal with nerves as it had been a while since she joined an actual competition.
"When I got up the stage, I was nervous. It was like I forgot what I needed to do," she said. "After my no-lift, I was shocked. I was wondering why I wasn't able to lift 90kg because I've done it many times in training before."
It was a similar scene to her performance in Rio where she also had a no-lift on her first attempt.
"My coaches reminded me about technique. I also calmed myself down and just ran through what I needed to do in my mind. Fortunately, I was able to recover during my second attempt."
After clearing 90kg on her second attempt, she then completed 94kg on her third attempt. Although these completions offered some relief, Diaz also knows that the bad start cost her an opportunity to really push herself.
"I did not get the result that I wanted because of a mistake, because of nerves," Diaz admitted. "One no-lift changed my game plan. I wanted to go heavier than 94kg in snatch but I did not have any more lifts."
As usual, Diaz worked on her snatch deficit with clean and jerk where she lifted 118kg on her first attempt.
"I was happy to complete 118kg. When I lifted it, I knew my place in the Olympics was secured. I really wanted to push myself. I wanted to know where I'm at," she added.
Although Diaz had no-lifts for her second attempts at 121 and 122kg, her first completion was already tied for third in clean and jerk. Unfortunately, Zulfiya Chinshanlo who also lifted 118kg on her first attempt, weighed in lighter than Diaz, giving her the bronze medal.
"The Asian Championships are like the Olympics because the top 6 or top 8 are already here. It's good that the mistakes happened here and not in the Olympics. I learned a lot and my team learned a lot as well. We have three months to work things out and make our adjustments," Diaz said.
Moving forward, Diaz and the rest of her team will be heading back to Malaysia to continue preparations.
"We're heading back to Malaysia to continue our isolation training. We'll raise the intensity in training and then one month before the Olympics, we're planning to be in Japan already with the whole team, hopefully," she said as it is not yet guaranteed if her entire team will make it with her to Japan due to the current constraints due to the pandemic.
"We're praying the entire team will be there because the spots are limited. We're talking about a medal in the Olympics so every little thing matters. It's difficult when your team is not complete. Instead of me focusing on the lift, I had to focus on other things as well because we're all trying to fill multiple roles."
Diaz was not the only Filipina to compete in the Asian Weightlifting Championships although she's the only bet that qualified for the Olympics.
For her part, she implored her fellow weightlifters to keep their heads up and push forward with their training. "I'm very proud of the young ones. I saw how hard they worked in training. I hope they keep it up and not give up on their dream to be in the Olympics," Diaz said. "They just need to surround themselves with people who will push them to be better."