HANOI—Hidilyn Diaz accomplished her mission at the 31st Southeast Asian Games—retain the women’s 55 kgs gold medal of weightlifting.
The feat may appear so easy for Diaz who won the country’s first Olympic gold medal in record fashion in Tokyo last year. But there were some scary moments.
Diaz gathered her strength to lift the barbells in her first attempt in the clean and jerk to prevail in an amusing showdown with Thailand’s Tanasan Sanikun on Friday and keep her weightlifting crown.
After missing a new games record of 94 kgs in the snatch, Diaz lifted 114 kgs in the clean and jerk for a 206 kgs total to beat Tanasan by three kilos for her second straight gold medal at the Hanoi Sports and Training Center.
Up next, according to Diaz, is a second Olympic gold medal in Paris 2024.
“My journey to Paris starts here, so this SEA Games gold is very important for me,” Diaz said. “The SEA Games are very meaningful to me. After winning the gold medal [in Tokyo], I’m still here to give our country another gold.”
Diaz’s victory was the country’s 42nd gold medal on Friday.
Esports delivered its second win Friday, the country’s 41st gold while judoka Shugen Nagano won the 43rd mint in the 66 kgs class.
But Filipino athletes in other fronts went winless in the campaign supported by the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission. The Philippines slid to fifth overall from fourth, with Singapore moving up to third and Indonesia improving to fourth.
The Philippines-Sibol team of Johnmar “Phi Villaluna” Villaluna, Danerie “Phi del Rosario” del Rosario, Salic “Hadji” Imam and Dexter “Phi Alaba” Alaba scored a 3-1 win over Indonesia in the finals of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang at the Vietnam Convention Center. The win came after the women’s Wild Rift squad triumphed late Wednesday.
Host Vietnam continued to overwhelm the opposition going into the last three days of the game, with Thailand assured of second-place honors.
Diaz, at 31 the oldest among the six participants, broke the SEA Games record of 91 kgs by going one kilo better in her second snatch.
But Tanasan, the 2016 Rio Olympics champion in the lighter 48 kgs class, gave Team Philippines a scare by lifting 93 kgs, snatching the record from the Philippine Athlete of the Year in 2021.
Diaz, the only reigning Olympic champion competing in the Games, tried to regain the record by going for 94 kgs in her last snatch but failed, smiling as she left the stage.
She later claimed she was far from worried.
“We studied our opponent, we know she’s strong in the snatch, but not so much in the clean and jerk. But of course, we cannot downplay the competition. I always do my best,” said Diaz, adding she struggled to train for the SEA Games after her busy schedule in the wake of her Tokyo Olympics golden feat.
“I was able to drop my weight from 61 to 55, that is why I’m so grateful with Team HD to reach this performance again,” added Diaz, who intends to compete in the World Championships and the Asian Games, just before the Paris games.
Tanasan, three years younger than Diaz, failed to lift 110 kgs in her second attempt in the clean and jerk after easily opening with 104 kgs. She tried to match Diaz’s 114 kgs in her third lift but failed, enabling the predominantly Filipino crowd in the 1,000-capacity venue, which included POC President and Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the gold was safely in the bag.
“The clean and jerk is where she really stands out,” said sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad, a member of Diaz’s world-class support staff known as Team HD.
Tanasan settled for the new SEA Games record and the silver with a total lift of 203kg, with Indonesian Natasha Beteyob finishing a far third with a total lift of 188kg built around 84 kg in the snatch and 104kg in the clean and jerk.
After lifting 114kg, Diaz tried 118kg on her second try but failed. She added three more kilos in her final lift, trying to break the SEA Games mark of 120kg but failed anew, falling on the mat, but maintained her smile and waved to the crowd.
She received her gold medal from Tolentino and sang the national anthem as the Philippine flag was raised for the 42nd time here.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes