By Waylon Galvez
After two failed attempts, Hidilyn Diaz finally earned her first gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games.
Already a gold medal winner in the Asian Games and a silver medalist in the Olympics, Diaz added to her collection the 55kg women’s category gold medal in the 30th SEA Games Monday night at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila.
In a display of what a world-class athlete can do, Diaz lifted a total of 211kg, a dominant performance in besting Vietnam’s Thi Thuy Nguyen, who placed second to claim the silver medal with 197kg, while Indonesia’s Juliana Klarisa came in third to settle with the bronze medal at 175kg.
“Sobrang saya ko talaga, pinahandaan ko ito,” said Diaz, whose best finish in the biennial meet was a silver medal in two SEA Games editions – 2011 in Indonesia and 2013 in Myanmar.
Diaz said that aside from finally winning the gold medal here at home, what made her victory more special was the presence of her parents as her mother Emelita and father Eduardo watched and cheered her from the patron seats just beside the entrance of athletes.
As she exited to the warm-up area after her last lift, Diaz pointed to the direction of her parents and widely smiled.
“First time ko na andito ang nanay at tatay ko. Medyo dun ako kinakabahan,” said Diaz. “Kasi alam ko nanay ko medyo nerbiyosa pagdating sakin. Pero masaya and excited din.”
“May pressure, buti na lang nagawa ko ng maayos. Lahat nagbunga. Two months before (the SEA Games) hindi ako ready kasi galing sa World Championships (last September in Thailand).”
Prior to the SEA Games, the 28-year-old Diaz had a month-long training in Taiwan together with Chinese mentor Kaiwen Gao, and conditioning/strengthening coach Julius Irvin Naranjo.
Her hard work and sacrifices in training paid off as the SEA Games also gave her points since the event serves as Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she is currently at fifth place – among eight outright qualifiers – in the 55kg women’s division.
After her lift at 88kg on her first attempt in snatch, the native of Zamboanga followed it up with a 91kg good lift. She tried to lift 94kg in her third and last try but she failed to complete the attempt.
Nevertheless, she topped the snatch category at 91kg, followed by Nguyen’s 82kg, Klarisa’s 80kg, Malaysia’s Elly Cascandra Engelbert 72kg and Maiyia Vue of Laos at 63kg.
In the clean and jerk, Diaz successfully completed her lifts in all three attempts, starting at 110kg, followed with 115kg, and when she nailed it at 120kg, the crowd – already in celebration mode – went crazy at the stadium.
Diaz said the support and prayers of the Filipinos, and government through the Philippine Sports Commission chaired by Butch Ramirez, and private groups like the MVP Sports Foundation headed by Al Panlilio, and the local weightlifting federation of president Monico Puentevella, were her motivation.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng sumuporta, nagdasal hindi lang sa akin kundi sa bawat atletang Pilipino… para sa inyo itong lahat. Let’s continue supporting, praying for the Philippine Team,” said Diaz.
The win of Diaz improved the weightlifting team’s medal haul with a gold, a silver and a bronze – as John Fabuar Ceniza placed second in 55kg men’s, while Mary Flor Diaz – Hidilyn’s cousin – placed third in the 45kg women’s division.
It was also the lone medal for the country in Day 2 for weightlifting after Elien Rose Perez in women’s 49kg, and Dave Llyod Pacaldo in men’s 61kg both placed fourth in their respective division.
Puentevella said he is optimistic that the medal haul will continue Tuesday when Olympian Nestor Colonia (67kg), Margaret Colonia (59kg), Elreen Ann Ando (64kg) and Kristel Macrohon (71kg) see action.
“Meron pa tayong aasahan na mag-medalya, and I’m hoping na maka-gold pa tayo,” he said.