Heavier challenge fuels Hidilyn’s drive for back-to-back Olympic gold medals
The harder things get, the more driven Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo becomes.
The Filipino weightlifting celebrity didn’t bat an eyelash saying so.
“I love being challenged. This year I’ll become more disciplined and determined to win back-to-back gold medals in the Olympics for our country,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo, who will move up to the women’s 59 kilograms for her second straight golden bid.
The weight class will mean navigating unfamiliar territory for the four-time Olympian, who captured the country’s first gold medal in the history of the Summer Games when she ruled the 55-kg class in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. But that weight class, which Diaz-Naranjo has dominated in major competitions, was expunged from the program of the 2024 Paris Olympics, and the Filipino star decided to move up in search of an encore.
She admitted that with the move, she would need to develop a muscular physique that can carry more power.
“I need to be more focused while training to meet 59 kg. I expect training will be much harder as I work on my diet. Rest will also be important to prevent injuries,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo.
The 31-year-old from Zamboanga City won’t be alone in her quest.
Diaz-Naranjo will be guided by husband-head coach Julius Naranjo every step of the way along with the rest of Team HD—sports psychologist Karen Trinidad, nutritionist Jeanette Aro and assistant Rowel Garcia.
If there’s one thing that she could leverage on, it’s the fact that Diaz-Naranjo has seen all her possible rivals in Paris.
“I saw how they played in the world championships, their technique and how they prepared themselves. I’m confident that I can do it,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo, who finally snatched the missing diadem in her collection by winning the 55-kg division in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Colombia.
By “do it,’’ Diaz-Naranjo meant that she would work on toppling the opposition beginning in the Olympic qualifiers all the way to Paris.
World champions Luo Xiaomin of China (snatch event) and Yenny Alvarez of Colombia (clean and jerk) are her toughest rivals in the 59 kgs. Kou Hsing-chun of Chinese-Taipei and Canada’s Maude Charron, the reigning 64-kg Olympic champion, are likewise medal contenders.
The Filipino lifting icon should go through four more qualifying tournaments before the Paris Olympics with two of them compulsory events—the 2023 IWF World Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 2 to 17 and the 2024 IWF World Cup.
She already had one tournament in her pocket with the Colombia world championships and expects three more meets next year, including the Saudi worlds.
“I will not go there just to compete. My goal is to become the best lifter in these tournaments,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo, who visited Philippine Sports Commission Chair Richard Bachmann early this week.
“That will be my mindset all the way to the Paris.’’