Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the Philippines’ first gold medal of the 2018 Asian Games and “proud Indonesian” Eko Yuli Irawan triumphed for the hosts on a pulsating day of action yesterday.
Diaz, the silver medallist from the Rio Olympics, pipped Turkmenistan’s Kristina Shermetova by just one kilogramme to win the women’s 53kg class.
“It was pressure for me for how many months,” Diaz told AFP. “At the Olympics no one expected me to win but at Asian Games everyone expected me to win a medal, a gold medal.
“For months I couldn’t sleep, my training got ruined but with positive people surrounding me I got through it. They inspired and motivated me.”
Earlier Irawan, also a silver medallist in Rio, dominated the men’s 62kg competition to take Indonesia’s first weightlifting gold of the Games in front of President Joko Widodo.
Veteran Irawan, 29, has won multiple major medals in a senior weightlifting career stretching back to his bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, but had never before set foot on the top step of the podium.
“I’m a proud Indonesian and pleased for the country to win gold,” Irawan told AFP after receiving his medal from president Widodo.
“I feel like everything I have fought for I have now finally achieved.”
Diaz raised 92kg in the snatch and 115kg in the clean and jerk for a 207kg total that proved just enough to edge out Shermetova (93kg snatch, 113kg clean and jerk). Thailand’s Khambao Surodchana took the bronze on 201kg.
“I feel this is a great stepping stone to Tokyo 2020,” Diaz said.
“I will compete in the world championships in Turkmenistan in November. I don’t know if I will win because I will now go back to school,” said the 27-year-old.
Irawan’s almost flawless performance of strength and control was capped by a 170kg lift in the clean and jerk which raised the roof at the Jakarta International Expo.
To screams from his adoring home fans, Irawan saluted the country’s president seated in front of him, broke into a huge smile and flashed a thumbs-up to the packed 2,000-capacity venue after setting a winning total of 311kg.
Vietnam’s Trinh van Vinh needed a mammoth personal best of 179kg with the final lift of the competition to snatch gold, but he crumpled in the attempt.
Finally Irawan could savour the golden moment that had always eluded him in the past, after Olympic bronzes at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, silver at Rio two years ago and Asian Games bronzes in 2010 and 2014.
President Widodo presented him with his medal before he saluted again throughout his country’s anthem and flag-raising.
Trinh consoled himself with silver, and the bronze went to Uzbekistan’s Adkhamjon Ergashev.
Irawan was ecstatic to be halfway to his stated career aims of winning both Asian Games and Olympic gold.
“I’m very thankful to my coach and team, also the people where I am from, for supporting me,” he said. “I want to win gold in Tokyo 2020.”
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