Paris Olympics

What’s next for Hidilyn Diaz? Family time, new skills

Delfin Dioquino

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What’s next for Hidilyn Diaz? Family time, new skills

ICON. Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines celebrates after a lift in the Tokyo Olympics.

Edgard Garrido/REUTERS

Hidilyn Diaz says she can finally pursue her culinary aspirations that she set aside to focus on her weightlifting career that saw her win gold and silver in the Olympics

MANILA, Philippines – Missing the Paris Olympics is not the end of the world for Hidilyn Diaz.

The Philippines’ first and only Olympic champion, Diaz plans to spend more time with her family and learn new skills after falling short of her bid to reach the Summer Games for a fifth consecutive edition.

Diaz, 33, said she can finally pursue her culinary aspirations that she set aside to focus on her weightlifting career that saw her win silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and a historic gold in the 2021 Tokyo Games.

“The Olympics and weightlifting are not my everything. I sacrificed a lot of my time to train, and sometimes, I forget to enjoy the process because I am caught with the high expectations and high pressure of being an elite athlete,” Diaz wrote on her social media accounts on Thursday, April 11.

“This moment is for me to learn new skills – join classes and workshops to learn to cook and bake. I have long wanted to take culinary courses since I was 22 years old, and now, I will not just imagine doing pasta, pizza, and kare-kare, I will bake and cook some for my friends and family.”

Diaz devoted her life to weightlifting since she took the sport seriously during her teenage years.

Even after Diaz married her coach, Julius Naranjo, in July 2022 exactly a year after her triumph in Tokyo, it did not take long for the Zamboangueña to shift her focus back to weightlifting as she needed to compete at a heavier weight class for Paris.

Diaz ruled the women’s 55kg division in Tokyo, but she had to move up to 59kg as Paris organizers scrapped her previous weight category.

Now, Diaz can devote more time to people closest to her heart.

“This is #FamilyTime. I will be spending time with my family, ninongs and ninangs, and my friends. Together, we’ll make memories and enjoy the time with them,” she said.

“I realized what is forever. And it is not fame, not money, not even winning or losing, but God, family, and real friends. These are my forever.”  

Sticking around

Diaz missed the cut for Paris as compatriot Elreen Ando, whose original 64kg class in Tokyo also got stricken off, clinched the lone Olympic spot up for grabs for the Philippines in the 59kg category.

The 25-year-old Ando saved the best for last in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Cup in Phuket, Thailand, last April 3 with a total lift of 228kg to unseat Diaz in the top 10 of the Olympic Qualification Ranking.

Diaz, meanwhile, failed to surpass her best record of 224kg she set in the World Weightlifting Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September.

But Diaz said her career is far from over.

“[I] will still lift, continue to lift, and inspire young Filipino athletes to become Olympic champions,” said Diaz, who also won gold medals in the world and continental championships, Asian Games, and Southeast Asian Games.

“Winning is not everything – it is being on the platform and taking on the challenges that give inspiration to other athletes. Thank you to the athletes who messaged me and said that I inspired them.”

“I served and will continue to serve my purpose in weightlifting, as I inspire many athletes to dream high, take the challenge, and work hard to achieve their dreams and never give up.”

And even if Diaz decides to hang up her spurs, she plans to stick around the sport as she and Naranjo run the HD Weightlifting Academy in Rizal.

“I will also learn to do business and invest myself in education to be a better sports leader. I have a lot of things to learn in life,” Diaz said. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.