HANGZHOU—Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo didn’t make the podium but got what she wanted at the 19th Asian Games that aren’t even a qualifier for her ultimate goal—return to Paris for her fifth straight Olympics.
“Yes, wait for me in Paris,” said Diaz-Naranjo after her competition at 59 kgs—a weight category that’s above the 55 kgs class where won the Philippines’ first gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.
“I’m happy with today’s training…err…competition,” she said in jest as she herself—and Team HD—didn’t expect to beat the “monsters” of the weight class.
Kim Ilgyong wielded a big broom as she won the gold medal in record fashion for North Korea, a team banned by the International Weightlifting Federation from its competition, but not here at the Asian Games.
Only 20 years old, Kim broke the world, Asian and Asian Games record in snatch with her 59-kg lift and adding her 135 kgs, established herself as the new world record holder in total lift with 246 kgs.
She shoved former record holders Luo Shifang of China (107, 133 for 240) and Chinese-Taipei’s Kuo Hsing Chun (101, 126 and 227) to the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Diaz-Naranjo was calm and calculated during the entire proceedings as she sent a message that she’d be in the podium sooner or later ahead of Paris 2024 with her fourth-placing performance of 97, 126 and 223 kgs.
“At the end of the day, it’s the Paris Olympics that are the most important for me,” she said. “We’ll continue training and get qualified.”
She needs two more competitions to return to the Olympics—the World Cup in Qatar in December and in Thailand in February.
Diaz-Naranjo could just have skipped Hangzhou because the Asian Games don’t have an effect on her Paris bid, but she insisted.
“I want to represent our country here, I want to compete for our flag,” said Diaz-Naranjo, who came to Hangzhou from her world championships campaign in Riyadh where she got almost similar results competing at 59 kgs.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said despite Diaz missing the podium, he expressed confidence she’ll be ripe and ready for the Paris Olympics set from July 26 to August 11 next year.
“We knew beforehand that Hidilyn’s hopes for a medal here aren’t that bright because she’s competing at 59 kgs,” Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said. “But we all know Hidilyn, she’s focused and disciplined so in a little under a year’s time, we’ll expect better from her in Paris.”
Coach Julius Naranjo said her Olympic champion wife is on track to getting into the groove at 59 kgs.
“We’re taking it slowly, one at a time,” he said. “The world’s best in this weight division are here, and they got the job done.”
The 55-kg class where Diaz Naranjo prevailed in Tokyo was dropped from the Paris program, forcing her to go up in weight.
“I tried to go for 100 [snatch] and 130 [clean and jerk], it’s my first time to lift those weights,” said Diaz-Naranjo who missed on both in her third and last tries. “I wondered, that’s how strong I have become and I’m getting closer to the top 5 or 6 in the world.”
Her gold medal-clinching weights in Tokyo were 97 in snatch and an Olympic 55-kg class record 127 in the clean and jerk.
“Just a few kilos more,” added Diaz, who was accompanied in the games by her now famous Team HD of nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and sports psychologist Dr. Karen Katrina Trinidad.
She expects the Chinese and Taiwanese to perform well in Paris but also mentioned Colombian lifters and those form Ukraine and Canada as tough opponents.