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Faith, hard work key Ando success

ELREEN Ando is set to be the new toast of Philippine weightlifting after stepping on the brink of the Paris Olympics. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PSC-POC MEDIA GROUP

Elreen Ando’s faith didn’t waver when she performed the life-changing lift that knocked the crown off Hidilyn Diaz’s head and put her at the doorsteps of the Paris Olympics.

In fact, her golden performance was just a repeat of what she already accomplished in training.

“I went through a lot of challenges. I was so happy that I could execute what I trained,” Ando said after posting 128 kilograms in clean and jerk on top of 100 kgs in snatch for a career-best total of 228 kgs to finish seventh in the women’s 59-kg category of the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand.

“I kept telling myself that I already lifted 128 kgs before in training.”

Ando’s journey to the Paris Olympics is truly impressive.

After posting a forgettable performance in Tokyo in 2021, in which she lifted a total of 222 kgs to finish seventh out of 14 competitors in the women’s 64-kg category, her chances of making it back to the Summer Games dimmed when the International Weightlifting Federation scrapped her weight class a year later.

She was forced to move to the 59-kg class while Diaz climbed to 59-kg class as the 55-kg class was scrapped as well, setting the stage for the mano a mano between the reigning queen of Philippine sports and a young, hungry newcomer who is determined to make a name for herself.

But the road to glory wasn’t easy.

In her first tourney in the 59-kg class in the Asian Weightlifting Championships 2023 in South Korea, Ando registered a DNF (did not finish) after failing to come up with a good lift in clean and jerk while posting 99 kgs in snatch.

Instead of giving up, Ando bounced back as she won the gold medal in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in record-breaking fashion after tallying 98 kgs in snatch and 118 kgs in clean and jerk for a total lift of 216 kgs.

She erased the records set by Hoang Thi Duyen of Vietnam, who lifted 96 kgs in snatch and 115 kgs in the clean and jerk for a total lift of 211 kgs.

Then, the University of Cebu alumnus gave way to Diaz as she competed in the 64-kg class in the 19th Asian Games last year.

She claimed the bronze medal with a total lift of 222 kgs behind a lift of 96 kgs in snatch and 126 kgs in clean and jerk while Diaz missed the medal podium with a total lift of 223 kgs behind 97 kgs in snatch and 126 kgs in clean and jerk.

She moved back to 59-kg class in the 2024 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent last February, where she picked up two silver medals after lifting 93 kgs in snatch and 120 kgs in the clean and jerk for a total lift of 213 kgs.

With only one athlete per country seeing action in the Olympics, Ando had to overthrow Diaz in the 59-kg event to reach the Olympics.

And that’s exactly what she did when she posted 128 kgs in clean and jerk to bolster her rank in the Olympic ranking, where only the top 10 will make it to the Paris Games.

Her Olympic qualification, however, will only be formalized once the IWF cuts off the qualifiers on 28 April.

Now, Ando is setting her sights on a bigger goal.

“My goal for Paris is to get a medal. Any color will do,” said And, who has to overcome the tough challenges from Olympic champions Kuo Hsing-chun of Chinese Taipei and Maude Charron of Canada before she could step on the podium of the biggest and most prestigious sport spectacle in the world.

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