ON Sunday, Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo breaks ground for her HD Weightlifting Academy in Jala-Jala, a legacy she dreams that someday would mold many more of her kind—an Olympic gold medalist.
“Giving back, yes, I have to give back to the community what I have learned,” Diaz-Naranjo told BusinessMirror on Thursday. “This is very significant for me because it’s the start of something we are doing or the beginning of what we are trying to achieve.”
Her dream academy is a 108-square meter one-storey bungalow-type edifice that would sit at the center of her and husband Julius Naranjo’s 7,000 square meter property in Sitio Mangahan in Jala-jala.
The facility won’t be world class at the start but Diaz-Naranjo envisions the academy to reach that level in the years to come—the same path she took in her Olympic journey by starting as an 18-year-old wild card in Beijing 2008, gaining experience in London 2012, earning silver in Rio 2016 and finally striking gold in Tokyo 2020 (2021).
“This is just an ‘outreach gym’ for the meantime. World class? Next time maybe,” she said. “We just have to address what the Jala-jala athletes need, and, of course, for me and Rosegie [Ramos] for our Paris Olympics campaign.”
Ramos is the Naranjos’ 19-year-old protégé they hope would also qualify for Paris.
The academy will have four platforms where eight athletes could train at the same time.
“The three platforms can accommodate 24 athletes simultaneously in two-hour sessions while the fourth platform is for resting,” she said.
Spart weightlifting equipment will be available in the academy designed by Architects Jocelyn Francisco, UAP, and Jose Miranda, UAP, and Frank Urcia.
Julius Naranjo will be the chief coach and trainer of the academy, which actually has informally started operating with the couple already having a pool of about a dozen Jala-Jala youngsters aged five to 17.
“Right now, we are training in the garage and inside the house and in a temporary gym,” she said.
The groundbreaking ceremony would be simple, according to Diaz-Naranjo, adding they’re hoping for sponsors to help grow the academy.
“But we intend to also be a non-government advocate organization someday to sustain and support the academy,” she said.
Diaz-Naranjo bared that young and aspiring weightlifters have been seeking her for training and coaching.
“Everyday kids who want to train come along,” she said. “But not everyone is able to survive the training, especially about discipline and commitment,” she said. “No extra-curricular activities and vices.”
But staying in school is a priority for aspirants, she stressed.
“Going to school is a requirement, sometimes we are providing scholarships so that they become good citizens as they balance their studies and sports,” said Diaz-Naranjo, who fulfilled her other dream, a degree in Business Management she earned from the College of Saint Benilde.
“At the moment, I have three relatives and one from the Aeta community [in Jala-Jala] who are staying with us with daily meals,” Diaz-Naranjo said. “If there’s a dorm, it will be affordable and sustainable and we also intend the gym to run on solar energy so we can save on electric bills.”
Diaz-Naranjo said the academy is expected to be completed by late March or early April.
By then, the couple said they’ll be preparing for a grand inauguration.