Diaz acknowledges importance of ‘Team HD’

Published July 10, 2021, 12:55 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz trains with strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo in Malacca City, Malaysia in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Screenshot from a documentary “Let’s Go HD!” by Kick-Start Coffee Brewed Awakening)

Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz understands that for her to be successful in the Tokyo Olympics, she needs a solid support group of coaches that will help her in this journey.

That is why when she started her preparation for the 2020 Summer Games, Diaz decided to form her own squad known as ‘Team HD’ which has since guided her from the 2019 World Championships in Thailand.

With two weeks left before the Tokyo Olympics, Diaz recognizes the big contributions of Team HD members – Chinese coach Kaiwen Gao, strength and conditioning mentor Julius Naranjo, sports nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and Dr. Karen Trinidad, her sports psychologist.

According to the 30-year-old Diaz, the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic made her realize the importance of her team.

“I won’t survive this pandemic without them,” said Diaz in Episode 2 of a documentary entitled “Let’s Go HD!” shown Thursday, July 8 on the Facebook page of Kick-Start Coffee Brewed Awakening.

“It’s been like a roller coaster ride. It’s really important to have people behind me during this preparation towards Tokyo 2020. Kung gawin ko lahat ng trabaho, baka maubos ang time ko kaka-research kung paano ako mag-progress sa sport na ito,” added Diaz.

A silver medalist in the Rio Olympics back in 2016, Diaz said that it was during the World Weightlifting Championships in Thailand that she first had the support of ‘Team HD’ – a tournament where they were tested as a unit while competing in the 55-kilogram women’s division.

Despite the struggles during the 2019 event, Diaz managed to win two bronze medals. That same year, she won her first Southeast Asian Games gold medal when she ruled the same division here.

More than a month later, Diaz captured three gold medals in the same category in the Roma 2020 Weightlifting World Cup. After that, the ‘Team HD’ proceeded to the training camp in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in preparation for the Asian Championship and the Tokyo Olympics.

However, everything changed when the COVID-19 outbreak happened.

Diaz, Gao and Naranjo were forced to stay in KL, bouncing from one apartment to another after the training facility where they were staying was off limits due to the lockdown in KL. They finally settled in the City of Malacca, where she has been training the last few months.

Although she failed to win a medal in the Asian Championship last April in Uzbekistan, Diaz said lessons were learned in that competition and they were able to address it as they gear up for the final stage of preparation going to the Games in Japan.

Diaz expects the representative from China to be her toughest opponent, but counts weightlifters from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Japan as other medal prospects.

“Kilala ko na sino ang mga makakalaban ko sa Tokyo. Kilala ko na sila, alam ko na first diyan China… ako sumusunod sa China – at gusto talunin ng China. Hopefully ito na, kala ko kasi nung 2019 kaya ko na siya talunin, baka ito na yung (year) binigay ni God sa akin,” said Diaz.

After the opening ceremony on July 23, the weightlifting events in the Olympics will start the following day, July 24. Diaz will see action two days later for women’s 55kg – the only event for weightlifting on July 26.