Hidilyn Diaz starts ‘heavier’ trek to Paris 2024 with SEA Games qualifying
Hidilyn Diaz has been named Filipino of the Year by the Inquirer and is a cinch to clinch the news organization’s 2021 top athlete trophy. She is also the surest bet for the Philippine Sportswriters Association’s (PSA) Athlete of the Year award.
With an Olympic gold medal in her packed trophy case, millions worth in bonuses and endorsement deals, you’d think she has enough laurels to rest on.
But Diaz is gunning for more.
“I still want to do weightlifting,” Diaz told Inquirer’s SportsIQ recently. “I want to compete in Paris (Olympics) in 2024. Who knows? That could be my last Olympics.”
She will begin in a national meet scheduled March 8 to 13 in Bacolod City, where she hopes to clinch a spot in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games squad that will compete in Hanoi, Vietnam, in May.
“We need to compete there first and then fly to Malaysia for training,” said Diaz, whose history-making gold won’t give her a free pass to the regional meet.
“There are no seeded lifters for the SEA Games. They all have to meet the criteria for them to join the team,’’ said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella.
The SEA Games is where Diaz will begin eating into the 12-kilogram, give or take, difference between her golden performance in the Tokyo Games and the standard that she will need to gun for in Paris, where she will be forced to compete in a heavier weight category.
Diaz won the gold in the women’s 55 kg category in Japan, but recent changes in the weight classes in the 2024 Paris Olympics as dictated by the International Weightlifting Federation will have her competing in the 59 kg class.
Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Hsing-chun is the Olympic record holder and gold medalist in the women’s 59 kg in Tokyo with a total lift of 236 kg. Diaz won the 55 kg division with a total lift of 224 kg.
“I’m returning because I want to compete in Paris 2024. I know that qualifying will not be easy and I need to earn it,’’ said Diaz in a recent Facebook video post. She is unfazed with the added weight on her shoulders, adding that she will lean on her team, composed of coach Julius Naranjo, her fiance, nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad.
“With their good weightlifting and SC (strength and conditioning) programs, nutrition and mental preparation, I know it’s possible,’’ said Diaz.
March 14 awards night
In between the national tournament and setting up training camp in Malaysia, Diaz is expected to grace the PSA Awards Night, where she is the leading bet for the coveted Athlete of the Year trophy.
PSA president and Tempo sports editor Rey Lachica said the event, held in partnership with San Miguel Corp., will be held on March 14 at Diamond Hotel Manila and could, depending on the health situation, return to a in-person staging.
Also on the list of nominees are US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso, world gymnastics champion Carlos Yulo, Tokyo Olympic silver medal winners Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, as well as bronze medalist Eumir Marcial, US Open champion Carlos Biado, tennis grand slam winner Alex Eala and four-weight boxing champion Nonito Donaire Jr.
Other awards to be given out during the affair also supported by MILO, 1Pacman, Philippine Basketball Association, Rain or Shine, ICTSI, Philracom, Chooks To Go, Smart and the MVPSF, are the President’s Award, Executive of the Year, National Sports Association of the Year, and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
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