Weightlifting

‘Stronger than me’: Hidilyn confident of next weightlifting batch amid nearing retirement

JR Isaga
‘Stronger than me’: Hidilyn confident of next weightlifting batch amid nearing retirement

CHAMP. Hidilyn Diaz celebrates winning the PSA Athlete of the Year after her golden Olympic run.

RAPPLER

Filipina Olympic hero Hidilyn Diaz continues her search for her weightlifting heir apparent as she begins the tail end of her illustrious career

MANILA, Philippines – Hidilyn Diaz has done it all in Philippine sports.

She has earned every medal there is to win, most notably the country’s first Olympic gold medal in history, and is just about ready to settle down, away from the sporting spotlight.

Although the 31-year-old superstar is not calling it quits just yet after previously committing to join the 2022 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the 2024 Olympics, she has already hinted at her final career act: to pass the torch to the next batch of weightlifting stars.

“Apart from the gold in Paris 2024, the only thing lacking now for me is finding who is next,” she said in Filipino during Summit Water’s recent press conference.

“Hopefully, when Paris 2024 comes, it won’t just be one or two. Hopefully, more of us qualify and win the Olympic gold for the Philippines. I wish we raise more awareness for weightlifting because this is really our sport.”

Almost every day, Diaz’s coach and fiance Julius Naranjo posts videos of multiple weightlifters training with the country’s Olympic hero, and Diaz wholeheartedly believes that they are more than ready to take up her mantle.

“I can see that a lot of athletes are stronger than me,” she continued. “I see Vanessa Sarno, who’s competing at 71 kilos, and those at the lower weight classes.”

“Southeast Asians have a better chance of winning at lower weights, so those at the 49, 55, 59 kilos, they are the ones who have a good chance at winning in the Olympics.”

Sarno made headlines last year after copping two golds at the Asian Weightlifting Championship, and is gunning for the top prize at the 71-kilo class alongside Kristel Macrohon in the Hanoi SEA Games this May.

Elreen Ando, also a Tokyo Olympian like Diaz, will go for gold at the 64-kg division, while Margaret Colonia, Rosegie Ramos, and Mary Flor Diaz will represent the country at the 59, 49 and 45-kg classes, respectively.

Over at the men’s division, the Philippines will also send an elite batch of talent in the biennial showcase, headed by Olympian Nestor Colonia.

As she prepares for the tail end of her career, Diaz is still more than ready to lead the country’s weightlifters with whatever time she has left in the hopes of inspiring more awareness for future athletes, fans, and backers of their craft.

“I’m still playing because I want to give awareness about sports, about weightlifting, about women empowerment. That’s why I’m still here,” she said. “The moment I feel there’s a better following, I can say, okay, this is it, I can retire.”

Hidilyn Diaz has done everything she can for her country and her sport. Yet, she is still willing to carry on the grind not because she’s told to, but because she wants to give back, and guide the next generation – staying true to her image as a Filipina sports hero. – Rappler.com