BY TITO TALAO
TOKYO — A four-time Olympic warrior, steep in discipline and a product of rigorous indoor training, and a young upstart, a street-instructed rising star, will take their quest in the XXXII Olympiad to the highest level of sports excellence when they kick off their events Monday with gold medals awaiting if they get pass the gauntlet of world class competition.
Hidilyn Diaz, 30, silver medalist in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, debuts in the -55kg category of the weightlifting competition at the Tokyo International Forum, hoping to crown with gold her projected final Olympic Games, a journey that took her to Biejing (2008), London (2012) and Brazil in search of that elusive gold medal.
“This would be her swan song,” said weightlifting president Monico Puentevella. “And her crowning glory. She has paid her dues and has nothing more to prove.”
Except the business of winning for the country its first-ever gold.
But the road to the gold won’t be rosy.
In her path is Chinese world record holder Liao Qiuyun of China, who has been tagged as the lifter to beat in the Games.
Events will be in snatch, and clean & jerk.
Over at the Ariake Urban Sports Park, skateboard impresario Margielyn Didal, 22, intends to put on a show in the street category event, something she did when she rose to fame after winning the gold medal with bold and innovative routines in the Palembang Asian Games in 2018.
The Games will be a stage grander than anything else she has conquered though.
“The Olympics has a bigger field of play, Iba siya from others at kumpleto talaga,” said Carl Sembrano, president of Skateboard Pilipinas Sunday morning on the eve of Didal’s competition.
“Dati 2 to 3 rails, yung me steps, now 6 rails, may flat and round, variety talaga. Kumbaga, dati half court lang, ngayon buo na. ”
The competition, Sembrano said, will be nothing new to the Cebuana skateboarder however.
“Kilala na ni Margie mga makakalaban niya, dati na niyang mga nakakasama,” he said.
According to the sport’s manual, “in street skateboarding, each skater will take two 45 second runs and perform five tricks that will be judged on a score out of 10. Out of those seven total performances, the four highest scores of each skater will count.”
“Sa diskarte na lang talaga magkakatalo,” said Sembrano, also the deputy secretary-general of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
Didal fell short of directly qualifying to the Games at the 2021 World Street Skateboarding Championships in Rome, but gained passage as the 13th placed skater in the world.
“Actually, pasok na siya sa Olympics non,” said Sembrano. “We just protected her standings para di na bumaba.”
Meanwhile, Team Philippines rebounded from a heartbreaking episode suffered late Saturday after Carlos Yulo’s misadventure in artistic gymnastics as flyweight Irish Magno followed Nesthy Petecio to the Round of 16 of the boxing competition at the Kokugikan Arena Sunday,
Mixing control and punching power, Magno steered clear of complications by outboxing Christine Ongare of Kenya through three rounds 5-0 in the women’s 48-51kg Round of 32 bout.
The Iloilo boxer, who earned a ticket to the Games after winning a flyweight division (52kgs) box-off with a Tajikistan opponent at the Asia Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Amman, Jordan last year, will next face Thailand’s Jutamas Jitpong on July 29 for a seat in the quarterfinals.
Petecio, a unanimous decision winner over Marcelat Sakobi Matshu of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 54-57kg category Saturday, shoots for a quarterfinal berth Tuesday against Chinese-Taipei’s Lin Yu-Ting, who drew a bye to the Round of 16 as the tournament’s No. 1 boxer.
While Petecio and Lin have never fought each other in a tournament, according to Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines executive director Ed Picson, the two sparred once in Bangkok in 2019 during the King’s Cup.
Making her presence felt in the tournament, Magno started strong, made the necessary adjustments in the middle round against the Kenyan, who gave away a few inches in height, and finished with a flurry.
“Laban lang po tayo, focus lang,” said Magno at the mixed zone for athletes and the media. “Huwag po muna tayo mag-aim high. Step by step pa lang.”
With the women boxers safely in the Round of 16, men’s flyweight Paalam makes his debut against Ireland’s Brendan Irvine Tuesday in the 48-52kg preliminaries.
Ranked No 5 in the world flyweight rankings, Paalam, 23, will take on the 25-year-old Irish, ranked 17th during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Two more athletes exited from medal contention, meantime, after taekwondo jin Kurt Bryan Barbosa a few days ago.
Shooter Jayson Valdez failed to make it to the podium round after finishing 44th in the 10m air rifle men’s qualification at the Asaka Shooting Range.
Only the top eight shooters advanced to the quarterfinals.
And rower Cris Nievarez’s fairy tale run in the men’s single sculls also came to an end after he came in fifth out of six in his quarterfinal heat at the Sea Forest Waterway.
The top three finishers advanced to the semifinals.