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Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo to still 'inspire young Filipino athletes' despite failed Olympic bid

Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo said that she will continue to inspire younger athletes despite falling short of making it to the Paris Olympics. POC (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

CALAMBA--Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo vowed that she would continue to inspire future Filipino sports stars even if she failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Speaking publicly through social media for the first time since falling short in the 59-kilogram category in the IWF World Cup, Naranjo said on Thursday that even if her road to Paris came to an end, she would still give the younger athletes a reason to strive for excellence.

"It’s the end of my Paris 2024 Olympic journey, I will still lift, continue to lift, and inspire young Filipino athletes to become Olympic champions," Naranjo, the first Filipino Olympic gold medalist back in 2021, said.

With the speculations that she might be calling it a career already, Naranjo saying that she will continue to lift could mean a lot.

Last week, the 33-year-old Naranjo told AFP that she is unlikely to call it a career just yet but whether she plans to qualify for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles is uncertain yet.

"I will still lift, but I'm not sure for the next Olympics," Naranjo, who will be 37 by the time the Olympics move to Hollywood, said in the AFP interview.

With the 55-kilogram division scrapped for the Paris Games, Naranjo had to jump to the 59-kilogram category to get a shot for a fifth Olympic appearance.

However, it meant she had to compete with Elreen Ando for the lone Filipino spot in the said weight class.

Ando finished seventh in the IWF World Cup, while Naranjo finished 11th, which would be enough for Ando to overtake Naranjo in the world rankings and assure her an Olympic spot.

"We did great, we fought hard, and we did our best for our country," Naranjo further said.

However, upon reflecting on the outcome, she said that going for the gold does not mean a lot.

"Winning is not everything; it is being on the platform and taking on the challenges that give inspiration to other athletes," Naranjo continued while also thanking fellow athletes who messaged her that they are using her as their inspiration.

"The Olympics and weightlifting are not my everything. I sacrificed a lot of my time to train and sometimes I forget to enjoy the process because I am caught with the high expectations and high pressure of being an elite athlete."

Regarding plans for her much-needed break, Naranjo said that she plans to take culinary lessons, learn how to manage a business and educate herself further to become a better sports leader.

She also said that she and her husband Julius will do a fundraising event where they will teach the basics of weightlifting to kids through their HD Weightlifting Academy.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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