Elreen Ann Ando had already moved on and had actually shifted her sights of making it to the Olympics toward the 2024 edition in Paris.
Little did the 22-year-old from Cebu know that her dream would come earlier than expected.
“It really came as a big surprise because I wasn’t expecting this,’’ said Ando in Filipino, greatly thankful to join the elite crop of Filipino athletes in the coming Tokyo Olympics after the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) deemed her qualified.
She will now cram, in a way, since her preparations of late have been geared toward the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi in November.
“I don’t feel the pressure because I’m excited. I know my coaches will look after me as I train now for the Olympics,’’ said Ando, who brought home two silver medals in the women’s 64kgs of the IWF Asian Championships two months ago in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Coach Gary Hortelano, who discovered Ando in Cebu City and guided her since she was 14 years old, strongly believes that Ando is capable of claiming a medal in Tokyo.
“I can see the aggressiveness in her, the fighting spirit. This is her dream and she will make the most out of it,’’ said Hortelano, who picked Ando as the best from among a pool of 50 children who underwent training in his club.
Hortelano said Ando would stay in her bubble training in Cebu until probably a week before the Olympics where they have to satisfy the health protocols required before going to Tokyo.
Ando joins fellow lifter Hidilyn Diaz in Tokyo together with early qualifiers EJ Obiena (pole vault), Carlos Yulo (gymnastics), boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial, rower Cris Nievarez and taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa. INQ
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