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JOHN Fabuar Ceniza inches closer to the Paris Olympics after finishing fourth in the men’s 61-kg event of the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF OLYMPICS

Southeast Asian Games silver medalist John Fabuar Ceniza boosted his chances of making it to the Paris Olympics after emerging fourth in the men’s 61-kilogram event of the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old lifter from Cebu saved his best performance for last as he posted 132 kgs in snatch and 168 kgs in clean and jerk for a total lift of 300 kgs — his best lift in the qualifier for the Summer Games that will kick off on 26 July.

Not only did Ceniza match his personal best of 300 kgs that he posted in the National Championships in Bacolod last year, but he also eclipsed the total lift of 298 kgs that he registered in the IWF Grand Prix II in Doha last December.

Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Li Fabin of China captured the gold medal after a total lift of 312 kgs while Hampton Morris of the United States came in at second place with a total lift of 303 kgs.

Right now, Ceniza is at the sixth spot in the Olympic rankings of the International Weightlifting Federation. Only the top 10 lifters will be given outright spots in the Olympics with the cut-off date set on 28 April.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and 19th Asian Games bronze medalist Elreen Ando are set for a collision course in the women’s 59-kg category on Wednesday.

Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella expects nothing less than a showdown from both Diaz and Ando as only one weightlifter per country will be eligible to compete in the Summer Games.

“It’s going to be a showdown of both Tokyo Olympians. But only one will make it to Paris unfortunately,” Puentevella said, bracing for an all-out war between the present queen and the rising star of Philippine weightlifting.

“Let’s enjoy it. They’re both good and capable.”

Their best lifts in the qualifiers happened last year in the 2023 IWF World Championships in Riyadh.

Diaz, who is currently at No. 8 in the IWF rankings, finished with a total lift of 224 kgs while Ando’s best lift was at 222 kgs.

If Ando wants to get that last slot for Paris, she has to lift at least 225 kgs to gain an edge over Diaz and clinch one of the 10 outright berths in the Olympic rankings.

Still, Diaz believes her competition with Ando will boil down to who wants to make it to the French competition even more.

“The two of us are competing in 59-kg, so we are hoping for the best of luck. We all are undergoing the Olympic qualifiers and know the hardships we had to go through in these qualifiers since it is for the country,” Diaz said.

The competition in the women’s 59-kg category also has an impact on Rosegie Ramos’ chances of making it to the Olympics in the women’s 49-kg category.

In an article by the IWF, the 20-year-old weightlifter is currently outside of the top 10 in the Olympic rankings and will have to hope that Nina Sterckx of Belgium does well in the women’s 59-kg for Ramos to qualify in her weight category.

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