Philippines' Hidilyn Diaz competes in the women's 55kg weightlifting event during the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Tang Chhin Sothy and TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP)

Philippines’ Hidilyn Diaz competes in the women’s 55kg weightlifting event during the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Tang Chhin Sothy and TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP)

HANOI—Make no doubt about it, Hidilyn Diaz is tracing her steps back to the Olympics. Never mind the underwhelming performance with which she secured her second Southeast Asian Games gold medal on Friday here.

The country’s first and only Olympic champion admitted her showing “wasn’t good,” but she’s happy with it. After all it was just the first step on her way back to the pinnacle of sporting glory.

“For me it’s okay. I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to be back again and train, and you know to be in competition again,” said Diaz moments after handing Team Philippines the gold in the women’s weightlifting 55-kilogram against a Thai opponent who tried to spoil it all for her.

Rio de Janeiro Olympiad 48kg champion Sanikun Tanasan was flinging the barbell high up in snatch where she led Diaz, 93-92, in a showdown of Olympic queens.

Diaz first surpassed the SEA Games snatch record of 91kg by one kilo. But Tanasan, going up from her weight class just to give Diaz a run for her money, lifted 93kg to reset it again.

Diaz tried 94kg but failed. Around this time, the overflow crowd at Hanoi Sports Palace were getting jittery.

Not Diaz, though.

“I was really confident because we’ve been studying my opponent so we know she’s strong in snatch but in clean and jerk, no,” she said.

Her support squad, known as Team HD, proved correct in its projection as Tanasan opted to start in clean and clear at 104kg, way below Diaz’s 114kg. The Thai managed to lift until 110kg but could not make up the three-kilogram difference and settled for silver.

Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella said that though they have lined up young lifters for the future, the 31-year-old Diaz “will remain the Philippine weightlifting’s heart and soul.”

“Of course I don’t want to downplay the competition, I always want to do my best, she’s an Olympic (gold) medalist, we just have to strategize everything,” said Diaz. She even took a shot at a Games’ record of 121kg but didn’t make it.

Diaz completed the golden run with lifts of 92kg in snatch, 114kg in snatch and jerk for her 206 total, besting Tanasan (93kg-110kg-203kg) and Malaysian Natasya Beteyob (84kg-104kg-188kg).

“I’m happy even if I lost in snatch and happy that I am here again,” said Diaz, who bared she battled with COVID-19 last January. “I’m thankful that I recovered and I was able to do my best, even though the total was not good, my performance was but I’m happy (with it).”

Just like every athlete eyeing the 2024 Summer Games, Diaz said the SEA Games was “part of my journey to Paris. I want to win the gold medal again in Paris.”
And she’s well on her way to that goal.

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