IT took 12 years at the least before Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo won for the country its first Olympic gold medal. It won’t take 24 months for her to summon the same strength in a heavier weight category to excel as she did in Tokyo.
“She [Hidilyn] still needs a bit more time settling in the category, but we now know what to expect and what needs to be done to keep us in contention to qualify and succeed,” her husband and coach Julius Naranjo told BusinessMirror on Wednesday.
Diaz-Naranjo wound up seventh among 12 competitors in the world championships in Riyadh over the weekend—her third Olympic qualifying tournament—at 59 kgs. The 55-kg class where she won gold in Tokyo was scrapped from the Paris Olympics program next year.
She finished fourth in her 59-kg debut at the Asian championships last May in Jinju, South Korea.
Naranjo admitted his wife felt “a little bit of pressure” in Riyadh where she faced off with virtually same challengers for the gold in Paris—Asian champion Shifang Lou of China, Kamila Konotop of Ukraine and Pei Xinyo also of China who weer 1-2-3 in the world championships.
“As with all of our competitions, we set a high standard and expect more from ourselves,” Naranjo said. “But being a first timer in the world championships as a 59-kg lifter, there is a sense of nervousness in probably the most competitive weight category.”
But Naranjo knows his wife fully well and is confident she would immerse herself at 59 kgs with still three more Olympic qualifying tournaments in their calendar.
“She has this ability to find herself and set the tone she needs…a bit later than expected but [it’s] something you’ve come to expect from Hidilyn Diaz,” Naranjo said. “There are a lot of strong 59s, but we will keep working.”
Diaz-Naranjo has to compete at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Grand Prix from December 2 to 12 in Doha, Asian championships from February 20 to 26 in Tashkent and IWF World Cup from April 2 to 11 in Phuket, Thailand, to complete the requisites to compete in her fifth straight Olympics in Paris.
But she has to remain in the world’s top 10 to make the grade.
“We won’t know who qualifies until the last qualifier in Thailand in April 2024,” Naranjo said. “It’s still a long way to go.”
The Naranjos are still in Riyadh but are ready to set up training camp in Japan before heading to the Asian Games in Hangzhou where Diaz-Naranjo eyes a second gold medal in her competition set on October 2.
They will again be accompanied by their protégé, Rosegie Ramos, who’s competing at 49 kgs.
“We will train somewhere nearby [Hangzhou] that would help us acclimatize from a dry environment to a humid and cooler climate,” Naranjo said. “Rosegie [Ramos] will be joining us in all our qualifiers and is training with us for the unforeseen future,” she said.