Hidilyn back to work, focuses on worlds

Premier League

FOR Hidilyn Diaz, the celebration and vacation are over. More so the non-sports commitments—TV appearances, photo shoots, product endorsements, etc.

Diaz, the country’s first Olympic gold medalist, busied herself the past three days packing what are essential for her recalibration as a champion weightlifter.

She and now head coach cum strength and conditioning Coach Julius Naranjo are headed back to Malacca in Malaysia on Saturday to train for the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships set from December 7 to 17 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

And Diaz is as motivated as she was when she set her sight on that gold in Tokyo three months ago.

“I am still an athlete, still hungry to achieve my goals,” Diaz told BusinessMirror on Thursday. “It’s still in my blood as an athlete, I feel that I still need to compete.”

Diaz now ranks as one of the greatest Filipino athletes ever, having ended a close to a century wait for that first Philippine Olympic gold medal. She did it in style in Tokyo as Team Hidilyn parlayed a battle of strength with the barbel into a brilliant chess match that caught a Chinese world champion dumbfounded and lost the mint in the process.

“Like what I said in preview interviews, I am not stopping despite winning an Olympic gold or after achieving the goal,” said the 30-year-old Diaz, who was promoted to Staff Sergeant at the Philippine Air Force upon her arrival from Tokyo in July.

“It’s not just because I needed to, but I am doing this for the love of what I am doing and this is my lifestyle,” she said. “Goal setting again.”

The gold was worth a windfall of incentives for Diaz with financial experts saying the pride of Barangay Mampang in Zamboanga City could have raked in P100 million in cash and material bonuses and endorsements—not to mention brand-new houses and lots and a posh condominium unit.

Diaz will stick with the women’s 55-kg class in Tashkent, targeting to add the only gold medal missing in her collection after successful runs in the Jakarta 2018 Asian Games and Philippines 2019 Southeast Asian Games that preceded her successful Tokyo Olympics campaign.

“I would like to say that every competition is important, yes the world championships are very important,” she said. “That’s the only one missing.”

She stressed that once they step on Malaysia it will definitely be “pure and serious training.”

“It’s always going back to basics. It’s a six- to eight-hour training session a day, mental preparation, diet and recovery,” Diaz said.

Diaz, however, will no longer have at her side Chinese coach Gao Kaiwen, who is back in his native Beijing with his family. Gao, like Diaz and Naranjo, were locked down for more than a year in Malacca.

And while her focus has shifted back to training, Diaz congratulated young weightlifters Rose Jean Ramos for winning two gold medals and a silver and Jeaneth Hipolito for bagging a bronze in the recent IWF Youth World Championships in Jeddah.

“It’s really a very big accomplishment for our weightlifters. I am very proud of them,” Diaz, who set herself up for Tokyo by clinching silver at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, said.

The young weightlifters are coached by her cousin Allen Diaz at the Hidilyn Diaz Weightlifting Gym in Mampang.