Hidilyn Diaz faces stiff competition in SEAG weightlifting

Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz finally sees action today when she defends her title in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category of the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hidilyn Diaz (AFP)

Diaz is favored to rule the event which starts at 12 noon local time (1 p.m. Manila time) at the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center, but has kept a modest approach in the belief that rivals are capable of producing an upset.

“Hindi man naging madali ang preparasyon, challenging din ulit bumalik sa competition shape, pero dahil alam ko na may misyon pa ako at may goal ako kasama ang (Team HD), patuloy ang laban!” Diaz said in her social media accounts.

One opponent who could give Diaz a run for her money is Thailand’s Tanasan Sanikun, who won the gold in the women’s 48kg division of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

She had beaten Diaz before during the 53kg category of the 2017 World Championships in Anaheim, California, lifting a total of 210kgs while the Filipina settled for bronze at 199kgs.

Sanikun, 27, submitted an entry total of 205kgs, five less than Diaz, based on the official start list released before the event.

Other participants are Vietnam’s Thu Hien Nguyen (190), Indonesia’s Natasya Beteyob (181), Malaysia’s Elly Cassendra Engelbert (165) and Cambodia’s Poch Tan (105).

Nguyen placed second to Diaz in the 2019 edition held in Manila with a total lift of 197kgs while Engelbert placed fourth with 164kgs.

Diaz bagged her first gold in the regional meet after lifting a total of 211kgs in snatch and clean and jerk.

The 31-year-old has been in Vietnam since last week, opting to hold the final phase of preparations at a training facility in Ho Chi Minh City.

Head trainer Julius Naranjo, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and sports psychologist Karen Trinidad have kept a close eye on Diaz’s conditioning.