Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

Tokyo gold medalist and 59kg world record holder Kuo Hsing-chu will be Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo toughest foe in Paris.  AFP

Tokyo gold medalist and 59kg world record holder Kuo Hsing-chu will be Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo toughest foe in Paris. AFP

Another world record holder. Four additional kilograms of muscle mass. A fellow Filipino weightlifter.

Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo’s path to a second Olympic gold medal is literate with obstacles, but she’s dealing with them one at a time—starting with the additional weight she is taking on.

“It takes time to build muscles, it takes time to build strength. What I’m doing is indeed very difficult,” Diaz-Naranjo said. The country’s weightlifting heroine, who won the first Olympic gold medal for the Philippines by ruling the 55-kilogram (kg) division in Tokyo, Japan, two years ago, will be climbing to a higher weight class for the Paris Games.

As an offshoot of the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) crisis with the International Olympic Committee, the weight divisions of the Paris Olympics have been reduced. Diaz-Naranjo thus climbed to the 59-kg class.

“Going up to 59 kg, I don’t expect to win immediately. It’s not easy to adjust right away, I just have to trust the process,” she said.Part of that process is facing fellow Filipino Elreen Ann Ando—who slid down to 59 kg after competing at 64 kg in Tokyo—in the qualifiers . Only one of them will be given an Olympic berth.

If she gets to Paris, she’ll face a formidable and familiar foe.

Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Hsing-chun won her first Olympic gold also in Tokyo with a total lift of 236 kgs to rule the 59-kg division. Her total is 12 kgs heavier than Diaz-Naranjo’s golden lift of 224 kgs.

But the Filipino star isn’t looking to make up the difference immediately.

“There should be progress, but it won’t be as quick as lifting an additional, say, 30 kilos right away. That’s not how it works,” Diaz-Naranjo said.

Kuo is the world record holder of the 59-kg division, lifting a total of 247 kg in the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan in 2021. But Diaz-Naranjo has stared down record holders before, beating China’s Liu Qiuyun in Tokyo.

Diaz-Naranjo has also outperformed Kuo before. In the 2011 IWF World Championships in France, a 20-year-old Diaz-Naranjo finished seventh in the tournament, a qualifier for the 2012 London Olympics. Kuo, then 17, wound up 10th.

Both elite lifters will clash anew for the first time since that meet in the 2023 Asian Championships scheduled in May 3 to 13 in Jinji, South Korea.

“People are telling me that I can do it. I believe so,” said Diaz. INQ

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