Complete ‘HD Team’ thrills Diaz, raring to go all out in Tokyo Olympics

Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz,third from left, with her 'HD TEam' of sports nutritionist Jeaneth Aro, sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad, Chinese head coach Kaiwen Gao, and strength and conditioning mentor Julius Naranjo. (Photo from Hidilyn Diaz Instagram @hidilyndiaz)

Three months before the Tokyo Olympics, Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz reiterated the importance of having a complete ‘HD Team’ for her to deliver a solid performance in the Summer Games in Japan.

Days before the Olympics, Diaz’s wishes came true.

“I’m happy that they all made it here to the Tokyo Olympics,” said Diaz in a message to Manila Bulletin Saturday night, July 24 – two days before the 30-year-old athlete competes for the gold medal.

Diaz is referring to her ‘HD Team’ composed of Chinese head coach Kaiwen Gao, strength and conditioning mentor Julius Naranjo, sports nutritionist Jeaneth Aro and sports psychologist Dr. Karen Trinidad.

Gao and Naranjo were with Diaz since February of last year when they started training camp in Malaysia, but Aro and Trinidad only joined her in Japan a few days before the opening ceremony last Friday.

Diaz attempts to surpass her silver medal finish during the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil when she takes the spotlight for Team Philippines and competes in the 55-kilogram women’s category of weightlifting starting at 6:50 p.m. (7:50 p.m. Manila time) on Monday, July 26, at the Tokyo International Forum.

In the last Olympic Qualifying Tournament during the Asian Championship in Uzbekistan, Diaz failed to win a medal as she placed fourth overall – enough to earn her a spot in the Tokyo Olympics as she completed the required six OQTs for weightlifting.

At that time, only Gao and Naranjo were present and Diaz said it’s very important that every member of the ‘HD Team’ should be on board since each has their own part to play during the competition proper.

This edition of the Tokyo Olympics is Diaz’s fourth straight in the Summer Games, having competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and in the 2012 London Olympics – and she knows that a complete ‘HD Team’ would help her as she competes against the best in the world.

“It’s really important to have people behind me,” said Diaz in a four-part documentary entitled “Let’s Go HD!” shown on the Facebook page of Kick-Start Coffee Brewed Awakening.

“Each member of the team may kanya-kanya na ginagawa pagdating sa namin competition area. Nakita naming gaano ka-importante ang role ng bawat isa (in the last OQT), kaya I'm happy na kasama ko sila lahat ngayon dito sa Tokyo Olympics,” said Diaz.

A native of Zamboanga City, Diaz considers China as her toughest opponent for the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, but mentions Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Japan as other medal prospects.

China’s Liao Qiuyun holds the world record in snatch (102kg) she established during the 2018 Weightlifting World Championship in Turkmenistan, as well as in clean and jerk (129kg) and in total (227kg) she had during the 2019 world meet in Thailand.

Aside from Liao, other weightlifters to watch in the 55kg women’s category are Turkmenistan’s Kristina Shermetova, Muattar Nabieva of Uzbekistan, and Zulfiva Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan.