HANOI, Vietnam –Tokyo Olympics’ gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz kept the 55-kg weightlifting title in the 31st SEA Games at the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center on Friday, saying the appearance in the regional sports competition was essential in her bid to make it to the 2024 Paris Olympiad.,Diaz totaled 206 kgs in the finals, three ahead of eventual runner-up Sunikun Tanasan, the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist, to capture Philippine weightlifting’s first gold in these games.,“My journey towards Paris (Olympics) starts here, so this SEA Games gold is very important for me,” said the 30-year-old Diaz. “Napaka-meaningful nito (SEAG). After winning the gold medal, bumalik pa din ako, nakapag-deliver ng gold medal for the Philippines. Masaya ako na nandito ako ulet ako sa SEA Games, na i-represent ang Pilipinas.”,With a predominantly Filipino crowd that included Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham Tolentino and Chef de Mission and Philippine Sports Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, cheering her on, Diaz set a new SEAG mark of 92 kgs in the snatch, but the record was short lived as Tanasan raised the metal plates by a kilogram to literally snatch the new record and led the competition at the break.,But there was no concern at all from Team HD’s camp.,“The clean and jerk is where she really stands out,” said sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad, who is part of Diaz’s world-class support staff known as Team HD.,True enough, Diaz was at her best in the clean and jerk, where she pounced on the field with an initial 114-kg lift that proved too high a mountain to climb for the Thai, who managed only a best lift of 110.,“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 that it was a struggle training for the SEA Games after her busy schedule as a result of her Tokyo Olympic gold triumph.,“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 plans to take part in the World Championships and the Asian Games, just before the Paris games.,Seeing action on Saturday are Denmark Tarro (men’s 73 kgs), Elreen Ann Ando (women’s 64 kgs) and Vanessa Sarno (women’s 71 kgs).,On Sunday, it will be the turn of John Kevin Padullo (men’s 89 kgs), Kristel Macrohon (women’s 71 kgs and John Dexter Tabique (men’s 89 kgs).
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