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Diaz anchors Pinoys’ homestretch drive

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Golden moment Hidilyn Diaz succesfully defends her title in the weightlifting snatch event of the 31st SEA Games at Hanoi Sports and Training Competition Center in Vietnam. | PHOTOGRAPH BY RIO LEONELLE DELUVIO FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_rio

HANOI, Vietnam — Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz was the undisputed star of defending champion Philippines’ Friday medal showcase in the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games that will draw to a close on Monday.

In a last-ditch effort to overtake Indonesia and Singapore and take third place overall, the Philippines will rely heavily on boxing, basketball, judo and tennis to deliver the coveted color.

As of 7 p.m. Friday, the Philippines has a medal tally of 43-59-89, still within inhaling distance of Indonesia (47-66-63) and Singapore (47-44-62). Vietnam is orbiting in outer space with a collection of 162-97-92 while Thailand is a distant second with a count of 65-73-105.

But this early, the Philippines is already guaranteed of gold medals in men’s and women’s 10-ball as these events will be contested by Filipino cue artists on Saturday.

Carlo Biado and Johann Chua will contest the gold in the men’s while Rubilen Amit and Cheska Centeno all dispute in the women’s.

Biado beat his Singaporean rival, 9-3, in the semifinal round and Chua, who won the 9-ball a few days ago, likewise crushed another Singaporean, 9-2, in the other final four pairing.

Amit earned the right to gun for the gold after scoring a 7-0 win over a Thai foe while Centeno disposed of her Vietnamese adversary, 7-5, to book final berths.

The day, however, simply belonged to Diaz, the country’s first Olympic champion, who faced off with fellow Olympian Supanich Tanasan in the 55kg event.

Diaz won by lifting a total of 206 kg while Tanasan did just 203. Diaz said she was glad of winning and retaining her SEA Games crown despite several factors that should have messed up her buildup for Hanoi.

“I had too many commitments, engagements and interviews after winning the Olympic gold,” she said.

But Diaz and her team had to regroup and set things straight before the roof could cave in on them.

“My team, we know our priorities,” Diaz added.

Also striking gold on a second straight lean day was esports and judo.The gamers —made up of Kyle Soto, James del Rosario, Salic Imam, Lee Gonzales, Jonmar Villaluna, Dexter Alaba, Russell Usi and Anel Jiandani — beat powerhouse Indonesia in the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

Filipino-Japanese Shugen Nakano also threw his weight around by topping the 66 kg class, scoring a waza-ari over Hoang Phuc Truong of host Vietnam.

The formal coronation of Gilas Pilipinas also excites sports officials here knowing the Filipino dribblers are close to being invincible despite a shaky start against Thailand.

Boxing is likewise being watched as three punchers are fighting for gold on Sunday.

Featherweight Ian Clark Bautista joined middleweight Eumir Marcial and fly Rogen Ladon during Sunday’s gold medal tiffs.

Bautista meets Naing Last of Myanmar after the Filipino beat his Cambodian rival via RSC. Those who have been relegated to the bronze include James Palicte and Marjon Pianar in the men’s and Jose Gabuco and Riza Pasuit in the women’s.

Pianas lost, 4-1, to Indonesian Sarohatua Lumbantobing.

Irish Magno and Tokyo silver medalist Nesthy Petecio were still fighting at press time for slots to the gold medal bouts.

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