[Weightlifting] Old, new contenders for Diaz in 2017 World Championships

 

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz faces familiar foes in a World Weightlifting Championships edition that is marked by the absence of traditional powerhouse China.

Nine countries are banned from competing in this year’s World Championships, being held in the American city of Anaheim in California state. And for the two-woman Philippine contingent, the development provides a chance to come home with at least one medal.

The 2016 medalists in the women's 53 kg. class in weightlifting, including Filipina Hidilyn Diaz, will rekindle their rivalries at this year's 2017 World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, California, USA (photo from www.olympic.org).

The 2016 medalists in the women’s 53 kg. class in weightlifting, including Filipina Hidilyn Diaz (left), will rekindle their rivalries at this year’s 2017 World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, California, USA (photo from www.olympic.org).

China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine were slapped with a ban by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). The IWF is trying to clean up the sport from a doping epidemic, and a re-testing of anti-doping samples from the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic Games showed positive results for identified lifters from each of the nine countries.

For Diaz, this means that the 53 kg. event will be without 2016 world no. 1 Chen Xiaoting (best total lift: 221), or running world no. 2 for 2017 Liao Qiuyun (208 kgs.). Xiaoting had collected nine World Championships medals in this weight class.

But 2016 Olympic gold medalist Hsu Shu-Ching is touted to rule the women’s 53 kg. class. She had collected seven World Championships medals in this category.

A preview of the said weight class by IWF and gracenote (part of the Nielsen Company) wrote that Hsu is not only favored to win. Hsu aims to become the first female to claim a world title in the 53 kg. class in three straight editions of the World Championships.

At least a medal for Hsu will make her the first female to reach the medal at four straight World Weightlifting Championships.

Hsu and Diaz won the gold and silver medals, respectively at Rio after favored Chinese lifter Li Yajun outlifted everyone not until she failed all three attempts in the clean and jerk and got disqualified. Li had already set a new Olympic record in the snatch (104 kg.) prior to the debacle in the clean and jerk.

The other lucky medalist in Rio was Korean Yoon Jin Hee. Thus, Hsu and Yoon will be familiar foes for Diaz at Anaheim.

In Rio, Hsu lifted a total of 212 kg., Diaz 200 kg. and Yoon 199 kg. Diaz’s total lift was far from her 208 kg. lift at the Asian Championships on April 2016 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where the Filipina won a bronze behind Chen and fellow Chinese Zhang Wangjong (Hsu did not compete in Tashkent).

It can be remembered that the 26-year-old Diaz once competed in the 58 kg. class at the 2012 London Olympics. But for Rio, she went down to the 53 kg. class given observations by coaches that she can land an Olympic medal.

While the Olympic medallists in the 53 kg. class are present, a new threat to the 53 kg. class is 48 kg. Rio Olympics gold medallist Sopita Tanasan of Thailand.

Tanasan moved up in weight to compete in Diaz’s weight class, and is one of two Thais in the weight class –the other being Supattra Kaewkhong. A pre-event infographic by IWF on Facebook ranked Hsu first (entry total: 215 kg.), Tanasan second

(from the Facebook page of the International Weightlifting Federation)

(from the Facebook page of the International Weightlifting Federation)

(210), Kristina Shermetova of Turkmenistan third (208 kg.), and Kaewkhong plus a Polish and Japanese lifter fourth (205).

The IWF ranks the best lifters based on their total lifts in any of the IWF-sanctioned competitions.

Diaz is using the Anaheim tilt to prepare her for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, aiming to land the country’s first Olympic gold.

As a former 58 kg. lifter, Diaz’s best lift was 217 kgs. in a fourth place finish at the 2012 Asian Championships. But as a 53 kg. lifter, Diaz’s best was 214 kg., winning gold at the 2015 Asian Championships.

As for Hsu, her record lift in the 53 kg. class —a standing world record, in fact— was 233 kg. set at the 2014 Asian Games in Korea.

Medals at the World Weightlifting Championships  are won in the snatch, in the clean and jerk, and the total lift. The event is staged annually except in Olympic years.

Diaz aims to repeat or improve on her three bronze medals at the 2015 World Championships held in Houston. Together with the snatch bronze medal of Nestor Colonia in the men’s 56 kg. class, Houston was the most productive Philippine performance at the biennial World Championships—not to mention the first medals for the country in the meet.

The other Philippine bet in Anaheim, Kristel Macrohon, competes in group B (or tier 2 lifters) the 69 kg. class. Diaz is in group A (tier 1) in her weight class, and lifters on this group will vie for the medals in the late afternoon of Nov. 30 (or around 2 a.m. on Dec. 1 Manila time).

An Associated Press report Sept. 30 wrote that the suspensions of lifters from the nine countries “could mean a drastically weakened world championships”.

The hashtag for the Anaheim event is #iLiftClean, says the IWF, promoting that together with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

 

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About JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO