HANOI—Tokyo Olympians Hidilyn Diaz and Nesthy Petecio lead the charge of the big guns on Friday as the Philippines makes another push to regain lost ground in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
Diaz steps into the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center weightlifting stage at 1 p.m. (Manila time), her first competition in eight months since winning the country’s first and only gold medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games
“I will give my best po. Nood po kayo at suportahan ang mga Pinoy weightlifters,” said the 31-year-old Diaz, who will try to defend the women’s 55-kg crown she won during the 2019 Philippine edition of the biennial meet.
The Philippines at 7 p.m. on Thursday slid to fourth spot in the medal table behind host and virtual overall champion Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
Hoping to pull the rug from under Diaz are Vietnam’s Nguyen Thu Hien, Indonesia’s Natasya Beteyob, Thailand’s Tanasan Sanikun, Malaysia’s Cassendra Engelbert Elly and Cambodia’s Tan Poch.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said he expects Diaz to retain her gold medal.
“I’m looking forward to Hidilyn retaining her title, she’s an elite athlete and an Olympic champion,” Tolentino said.
Petecio, Tokyo Olympics’ silver medalist, battles Vietnamese Tran Thi Linh on Friday, eyeing a decisive victory to avoid a controversial decision in the women’s featherweight boxing event at the Bac Ninh Stadium here.
The 30-year-old Petecio of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, will go into the match assured of the bronze medal after scoring a unanimous decision victory over Kay Thwe Nyein of Myanmar in the quarterfinals last Wednesday.
Another Tokyo Olympian in Irish Magno, faces Indonesia’s Novita Sinadia in the women’s flyweight semifinals.
Linh, showing great boxing skills, also scored a unanimous decision victory over Thai Sudaporn Seeondee in the quarterfinals.
Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines Secretary-General Marcus Jarwin Manalo said Petecio, the 2019 world champion, has not faced Linh before, but they were together in training camp in Muak Lek, Thailand, with the rest of the Philippine team.
“I don’t think they already fought each other in the past, but they were together in Thailand so I think she’s familiar with her,” said Manalo, who added Petecio has what it takes to retain her SEA Games title.
Also on Friday, Ian Clark Bautista fights Cambodian Rangsey Sao in the semifinals while Marjon Piañar, coming off a bye, battles Indonesian Sarohatua Lumbantobing or Cambodia’s Vy Sophors in the welterweight class.
All nine Filipino boxers competing here have advanced to the semis as of Wednesday night and are expected to boost the country’s hunt for more gold medals.