Hidilyn Diaz not looking past opposition

<p>Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz<em> (File photo)</em></p>

Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz (File photo)

VINH PHUC, Vietnam – Although she’s the odds-on pick to lift the gold in her division, Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz refused to look past the opposition in the 31st Southeast Asian Games weightlifting battle on May 19-22 at the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center.

It's not for lack of training or desire. She just acknowledged the fact that on any given day, someone might just spring a surprise.

“Everyone of us can win a gold medal and I can’t cite names because all of us are doing our best to perform at the highest level,” said Diaz, refusing to make any prediction in the regional multi-sporting competition.

“I can’t make any prediction since all the athletes are capable of winning a gold medal,” added the 2021 Philippine Sportswriters Association Athlete of the Year who ended the country’s quest for a golden win in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

A day after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, the 31-year-old Zamboangueña plunged into training at the Steel Saigon gym to prepare for her gold medal bid in the women’s 55kg category on May 20. She reigned supreme in her division in the 2019 Philippine SEA Games.

“I’ll train for one week here in Ho Chi Minh City to prepare myself,” said Diaz, one of several stars on the national team, the others being gymnast Carlos Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, teen tennis star Alex Eala, the boxers who won medals in the Tokyo Games, and the Gilas Pilipinas squad.

Helping Diaz reach topnotch form on competition day are members of the HD team who arrived with her last Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City -- head trainer Julius Naranjo, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad.

Diaz’s teammates on the women’s team, who will fly to Hanoi on May 16 after their rigid training at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, are reigning Asian champion Vanessa Sarno (-71 kg), Tokyo Olympian Erleen Ann Ando (64 kg), 2019 SEA Games gold medalist Kristel Macrohon (+71 kg), 2019 SEA Games silver medalist Margaret Colonia, Asian Championships silver winner Mary Flor Diaz (45 kg) and Rosegie Ramos (49 kg).

The men’s team members are Rio Olympics bet Nestor Colonia (67 kg), Fernando Agad (55kg), John Dexter Tabique (-89kg), Rowel Garcia (61kg), John Kevin Padullo (+89kg), and Lemon Tarro (73kg). They will be joined by coaches Gregorio Colonia, Nicolas Jaluag, Gary Hortelano and Patrick Lee.

“I’ll train for one week here in Ho Chi Minh City to prepare myself,” Diaz said.

Diaz, before winning the gold in Tokyo Summer Olympic Games last July, had already won the silver medal in 2016 Rio Olympics and a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. (PR)