Hanoi—Forget that Hidilyn Diaz is an Olympic champion. Forget that she sets records only to break them.
Because when the 2024 Paris Olympics is concerned, past champions don’t get an automatic seat in the competition. It’s not like the Masters, where past winners are invited to join the tournament for life.
In the Olympics, past medals or titles or status don’t matter. Everyone starts from scratch and must go through various stages to qualify.
From London to Saigon, or Thailand to New Zealand, every weightlifter in the world dreaming of Olympic dreams is equal.
For Hidilyn, her Olympic breakthrough in Tokyo as the Philippines’ first and only gold medalist is over and done with. That chapter is closed.
The Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi is the beginning of a new Olympic journey, which Hidilyn marked with a 55-kg weightlifting gold 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 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 31-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 POC president Abraham Tolentino and Chef de Mission 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 her 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 (Thai) 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, who plans to take part in the World Championships and the Asian Games—two competitions she hopes will make her worthy enough for the Paris games.
By then, we will all be reminded, who Hidilyn Diaz truly is. Oh, we will never forget.