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Hidilyn Diaz commits to Asian Games

August 7 ------ Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo will not be defending her Asian Games gold medal in China in October. She will head there to win a new one.

Though not calendared as an Olympic qualifying event which Diaz-Naranjo initially left out of her schedule, the Hangzhou, China Games will be a chance for the Zamboanga native to represent the Philippines again and add to her legacy. “I want to represent our country again in the Asian Games (Asiad). It’s the second highest competition next to the Olympics,’ said Diaz, confirming her stint in the Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 meet. “Whether it’s the Olympics or the Asian Games, I have to be there and compete.’

The star weightlifter will be competing in the heavier 59-kilogram (kg) category in China after the 55-kg division, which she ruled in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018 for the first Asiad gold in her collection, had been scrapped.

Record Olympic stints

She will be shooting to make a fifth straight Olympics in the 59-kg category and even though her team decided before that they won’t see action in the Asiad, the Games will be a chance for Diaz-Naranjo to get real competition after the World Weightlifting Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia set next month. And that is where a slot in the Paris 2024 Games will be at stake. “I can compete in both the world championships and the Asian Games."

So far, the 32-year-old has completed two of the five required tournaments to punch a ticket to Paris with the world championship her third event. Diaz-Naranjo landed fourth in the Asian championships three months ago in Jinju, South Korea, an Olympic qualifier and can make it to the French capital next year if she ranks in the top 10 in all five meets. “Based on my competition schedule in the world championships (Sept. 8), I still have enough time to recover since I will be competing in the Asian Games on Oct. 2,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo, who recently completed her business administration degree at College of St. Benilde. Diaz-Naranjo said she’s already figured out her schedule with husband-coach Julius Naranjo as far as traversing their road to Paris is concerned. If successful, this will be a record fifth straight Olympic appearance if she books a spot.

Two more events

After the Saudi world tourney, Diaz-Naranjo can pencil in the 2024 Asian championships on Feb. 20 to Feb. 27, 2024 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and the 2024 IWF World Cup on April 2-11 next year in Phuket, Thailand as part of her Olympic qualification itinerary. The 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics silver medalist skipped the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia this year, the tournament where she won two gold medals in 2019 Manila and 2021 Vietnam, since it ran in conflict with the Asian champs in Korea.

Diaz-Naranjo ended a century-old chase for an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo in 2021 after coming out on top of a drama-filled back-and-forth with China’s Liao Qiuyun with a 224-kg total, a mere kilo ahead of the Chinese ace. Team HD has lost an integral part of that winning formula since, with Diaz-Naranjo’s old coach, Gao Kaiwen of China.



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