(Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 18, 2021 on thefilipinoconnection.net and is used with permission from the website.)
MANILA, Philippines – Hidilyn Diaz formalized her entry to this July’s Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, but her competition in the 55kg weight class just got tougher.
Diaz missed the three sets of medals offered in the said weight class at the 2021 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The women’s 55kg category is expected to have a Chinese, now two-time Asian Champion Liao Qiuyun, as a runaway gold medalist in Tokyo.
But Tashkent gave Diaz a sense of the medals competition in Tokyo, of which she remains in the running. That is because a country is only allowed one entry per weight category, and Diaz remains in the top four of the said weight category.
Diaz placed fourth in the snatch (94kg), then hoisted 118kg in the clean and jerk to tie Kazakh lifter Zulfiya Chinshanlo. But the lady Kazakh bet won the bronze medal and Diaz placed fourth.
Diaz’s 212 total was good for fourth overall behind Liao Qiuyun (222kg), fellow Chinese Li Yiajun (221kgs) and Uzbekistan’s Muattar Nabieva (212kgs). Clean and jerk bronze medalist Chinshanlo placed fifth overall with 210.
The five ladies are the world’s best lifters in this category, although Liao Qiuyun is said to be the Chinese representative to Tokyo.
Li Yiajun won the gold in the snatch (101kg) over Nabieva (99kg) and Qiaoyun (98kg).
In reverse, Qiaoyun won the clean and jerk (124kgs) over Yiajun (123kg) and Chinshanlo (118kg).
Nabieva’s bronze in the overall count was courtesy of her personal best of 99kg in the snatch. Diaz missed her first snatch at 90 kg before nailing 90 and 94kg in her final two attempts.
The clean and jerk, however, was where Diaz bounced back. But Chinshanlo also lifted 118kg in her first attempt like Diaz. The Kazakh then missed 122kg in her second lift, the same with Diaz missing her second lift at 121kg.
Both Chinshanlo and Diaz missed their final clean and jerk attempt at 122kg. The Kazakh won the bronze by virtue of trying a heavier weight in her second attempt.
The Chinese’s performance in these ongoing championships seeks to reassert the country’s dominance after China and eight other countries got suspended for a year by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). Drug tests of results from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games were re-analyzed, and lifters from these countries returned at least three positive drug sample results.
New weight classes
On November 1, 2018, the IWF introduced new weight categories for its international tournaments and for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The IWF introduced 10 new weight classes for both men and women, but the Tokyo Games will only offer seven of those ten categories for both genders.
Unlike the continental and the IWF World Championships where a total of nine medals are offered per weight class, the Olympic Games will put only three medals up for grabs.
Diaz won her silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the former 53kg weight class.
Prior to the Tashkent-hosted Asian Championships, Liao Qiuyun (first, 4,288.9622 points), Diaz (second, 3,717.0982), Muattar (third, 3,519.9108) and Chinshanlo (fifth, 3,432.7232) are assured of world qualification slots for Tokyo.
The women’s 55kg class was introduced at the 2018 IWF World Championships (1 to 10 November) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Li Yiajun won the overall gold medal (225kg) over compatriot Zhang Wangjong (same total).
Chinshanlo snared the bronze (213kg), Nabieva was fourth (212 kg) and Diaz landed in ninth (203kg) that year.
(When Diaz won the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, on August 21 to be exact, it was at the 53kg class. The IWF’s new weight categories came some two months after.)
But at the 2019 Asian Championships in Ningbo, China, Diaz came back to win three silver medals in the snatch (94kg), clean and jerk (115kg) and overall (209kg). Liao Qiuyun was the runaway winner with a 224kg total.
Nabieva was third (204 kg) while Chinshanlo came in fourth (194kg).
'Threats' to Diaz in Tokyo
But the performances of the two Central Asian lifters in Tashkent could pose threats to Diaz in Tokyo.
Nabieva’s 99kg hoist in the snatch was her personal best, and Diaz’s heaviest lift in the snatch was 94 kg.
Chinshanlo’s 118kg lift in the clean and jerk was her personal best, but Diaz had lifted her heaviest of 120kg when she won the 55kg class at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila.
And just before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, at the 2020 IWF Roma World Cup (a tournament that offered points for Olympic qualification), Diaz easily won the gold with a 212kg total, including a 119kg clean and jerk lift.
In Tashkent, Diaz made up for a bad start in the snatch by hoisting 90kg in her second attempt and 94kg in her third. But Nabvieva lifted 95kg on her first lift and boldly hoisted 99kg on her second (the Uzbek missed 102kg on her final attempt.)
Diaz and Chinshanlo both hoisted 118kg in their first clean and jerk attempts. Diaz then took a one-second pause to place the bar on her chest in her second attempt, but she can’t complete the 121kg lift as she slipped towards the front.
Chinshanlo tried 122kg on her second and third attempts but failed. Diaz also failed at 122kg on her final lift.
While Liao Qiuyun will expectedly be the runaway favorite to win the gold in Tokyo, Diaz will have her hands full against Nabieva and Chinshanlo if she wants to land a second-straight Olympic silver medal.
Liao will come to Tokyo aged 26, Nabieva at 25, Chinshanlo at 28, and Diaz at 30 years old.
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