Hidilyn Diaz poised to start run for another Olympic gold, cites woes, set to train in US

TOKYO OLYMPICS gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz with FilAm coach and husband Julius Naranajo from Guam: Diaz eyes gold in Paris Olympics

MANILA – The country’s only Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo is poised to start her journey to possibly compete in the Paris Olympics in 2024 as she joins eight Filipino athletes in the World Weightlifting Championships in Bogota, Colombia on December 5 to 6.

But before flying to Colombia, Diaz will undergo training for several weeks in the United States.

The 31-year-old Diaz is preparing for the Paris Olympics while putting together her thesis for her business management course at the College of Saint Benilde, which is near Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, according PNA’s Jean Malanum.

Earlier, Diaz met Arianne Cerdeña who bagged the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games where bowling was played as a demonstration sport during a courtesy call on Philippine Sports Commission Chairman Noli Eala and Commissioner Bong Coo, herself a champion bowler.

Like Cerdena, Diaz said she wants to still be of service after her retirement.

Both agreed that the road to greatness is not easy and aspiring Olympians will have to go through several hardships.

Meanwhile, Diaz admitted during a media discussion that she is experiencing difficulty in getting funding in her bid to do a golden repeat in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Diaz, who ended the 97-year gold medal drought of the Philippines at the Tokyo Olympics, said that she is looking for more funds to help her achieve another Olympic gold, a revelation that attracted some criticisms which she shrugged off.

She said the fund she was referring to would be for the series of competitions she has to join to qualify for the quadrennial meet in 2024.

This will include the airfare of her team and other expenses such as her food, stressing in an ABS-CBN report the importance of nutrition in a winning formula.

“Kailangan ko ng team. Paano na ‘yung coaches ko sa likod? Hindi naman pwede na ibang coaches ang kasama ko na hindi ako kilala. Paano ‘yung pagkain ko? Nag-a-add ako ng weight. Nutrition really helps sa laro, tapos ‘yung sports psychologist. So kailangan ko ng team,” she said.

Diaz noted that the one-way airfare alone could reach P100,000 for her team, citing the upcoming IWF World Championships in Colombia.

There are also the professional fee of her coaches, she said adding it is unfair for them to do pro bono work for her Olympic bid.

Diaz said she is aware that many Filipinos think that she does not need help anymore since she already won a hefty amount of incentives after her historic win in the Tokyo Olympics.

But she  clarified that the incentives she received from last year are dedicated for her future outside of sports.

Diaz posted on her Instagram story that as much as it pained her to do so, she is asking for financial help.

“Hirap na hirap na ako. I need financial support. Sa tingin niyo, okay lang, kaya. Nahihiya kasi ako, pero try ko kapalan mukha ko para sa minimithi kong pangarap para sa ating bansa, na maiuwi ang gold medal sa Olympics,” she said at the time.

The World Championships is the first qualification tournament on the road to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Diaz-Naranjo is entered in the women’s 55-kg category which she ruled in the Tokyo Olympics but is not included in Paris.

The 10 weight class featured in Paris are men’s 61-kg, 73-kg, 89-kg, 102-kg and +102-kg; and women’s 49-kg, 59-kg, 71-kg, 81-kg and +81-kg.

Also going to the World Championships are Rosegie Ramos and Lovely Inan (women’s 49-kg), Elreen Ando (women’s 59-kg), Vanessa Sarno and Kristel Macrohon (women’s 71-kg), Nestor Colonia (men’s 55-kg), John Febuar Ceniza (men’s 61-kg) and Dave Lloyd Pacaldo (men’s 67-kg).

The other members of the delegation headed by Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas President Monico Puentevella are coaches Ramos Solis, Richard Pep Agosto, Joe Patrick Diaz, Julius Irvin Hikaru Naranjo, sports psychologist Dr. Karen Katrina Trinidad and nutritionist Jeaneth Aro.

“We are optimistic for a good showing in the World Championships to be led by Hidilyn and Vanessa. This is why we skipped the Asian Championships to concentrate on our goal of qualifying,” said Puentevella in an interview.

“This world championship is a prelude to the Paris Olympics already. Where we meet the best in the world. At the same time, we’ll know who’s ready and also improve our qualifying chances,” added Puentevella, who was inducted into the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Hall of Fame on June 27 this year.

Sarno won three gold medals (Youth 71-kg) and Ramos bagged three gold medals (Junior 49-kg) at the Asian Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan last July. (with Jeanne Michael Penaranda)