MANILA — Five weightlifters, led by 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz, are joining the Philippine delegation who will take part in the upcoming 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Seasoned coach Elbert Atilano will serve as leader of the weightlifting team, composed of Diaz, Ma. Dessa delos Santos, Kristel Macrohon, Elreen Anne Ando, Nestor Colonia and coach Antonio Agustin Jr.
Diaz, Delos Santos and Macrohon are from Zamboanga while Ando is from Cebu.
Colonia, who also saw action in the 2016 Rio Olympics, has just competed in the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia. He and Ando topped the first Hidilyn Diaz weightlifting competition in Pasig City last July.
Dessa, daughter of many-time SEA Games champion Alvin delos Santos, won three silvers while Macrohon won a bronze in the 2016 Asian Junior and Youth Championships in Japan.
Atilano said in an interview on Tuesday that it would be difficult to make any prediction on the medal chances of his athletes.
“This is our first time to join, hindi ko kilala mga kalaban (I’m not familiar with our opponents),” said Atilano, who is the training director of the Universidad de Zamboanga Weightlifting Center, which has produced the country’s top athletes, including Diaz.
“We will just hope for the best,” he added.
Diaz will have the honor of carrying the Philippine flag when she leads 105 athletes during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on September 17.
Weightlifting is one of the 21 sports calendared in the AIMAG, which will be participated in by 62 countries.
The other sports are chess, futsal, tennis, muay, sambo, kurash, jiu-jitsu, bowling, cycling (track), swimming, athletics, weightlifting (powerlifting), basketball, taekwondo, dancesport, kickboxing, wrestling (traditional and Greco), billiards and snooker.
Congressman Monsour del Rosario, a former champion athlete who is now secretary-general of the Philippine Taekwondo Association, has been designated chef de mission of Team Philippines with Philippine Karatedo Federation secretary general Raymund Lee Reyes as his deputy.
Del Rosario, who was elected congressman in the First District of Makati last year, said the Philippines has bright prospects in combat sports.
In the 2013 edition in Incheon, South Korea, the Philippines won three medals — one gold and two bronzes.
The Filipino athletes are also using the AIMAG to gauge their performance in the 2018 Asian Games to be hosted by Indonesia. PNA-northboundasia.com