WEIGHTLIFTER Hidilyn Diaz got the rare honor of becoming the Philippine flag-bearer during the parade of countries highlighting the glitzy opening ceremonies of the 30th London Olympic Games on July 27.
A native of Zamboanga City who competed in the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Diaz beat shooter Brian Rosario, swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi and Filipino-Japanese judoka Tomohiko Hoshina for the right to carry the national tri-colors at the head of the small team during the march past of nations.
“Hidilyn is the unanimous choice of the board. I know she’ll be elated once she receives the good news,” said Team Philippines chief of mission Manny Lopez, emerging from the monthly Philippine Olympic Committee meeting on Wednesday at the POC office in Pasig City.
Diaz is one of seven Filipino athletes in the midst of a free training camp leading to the Games, the others being Rosario, Alkhaldi, swimmer Jessie Khing Lacuna, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga, long jumper Marestella Torres and 5,000-meter bet Rene Herrera.
One of seven children by a tricycle driver, who fell in love with the sport while growing up in her hometown, Hidilyn competed in the Beijing Games as a 16-year-old and wound up 11th in a field of 12 in a forgettable stint that had her promising to do a lot better if given the chance to compete again.
Set to compete in the 58-kg division, Diaz qualified for the London Games following strong performances in two qualifiers by the International Weightlifting Federation in Paris and in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
Diaz, the first Filipino weightlifter to represent the country in two-straight Olympics, finished ninth overall at the end of the two qualifying tournaments to clinch a spot.
Under IWF rules, the top 10 lifters in each divisions after the qualifiers will earn outright berths to the Olympics.
In Beijing, she lifted 85 kilos in the snatch and 107 in the clean and jerk for a 192 total, way off the winning effort of 244 by China’s Chen Yanquing.
The other members of Team Philippines supported by the International Container Terminal Services Inc., Bank of the Philippine Islands, Mizuno, Samsonite, Petron, TV5, Smart Sports, Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Racing Commission are archers Mark Javier and Rachelle Anne Cabral and BMX rider Danny Caluag.