Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo proves she is more than an inspirational figure as she breaks ground on ‘factory’ of champs
From Olympic weightlifting gold medalist to philanthropist.
Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo proved she is more than just a beacon of hope by providing something more tangible that can help young athletes take the same path to glory she did: A training center in Jala-Jala, Rizal province, that she hopes will serve as a factory mill that will produce lifters like her.
“With all the blessings that I earned and received, I have to give back to the community,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo during the groundbreaking of her HD Weightlifting Academy in the fourth-class municipality located in a peninsula around 70 kilometers southeast of Manila.
Diaz-Naranjo’s proposed 108-square meter (sqm) single-storey training facility will rise at the center of the couple’s 7,000-sqm property in Sitio Manggahan.
Diaz-Naranjo’s husband and coach, Julius Naranjo, will serve as the academy’s chief coach and trainer. The couple began informally training about a dozen children aged 5 to 17 last year in a makeshift gym inside a garage.
“This is the start of something we really want to do, the beginning of what we are trying to achieve,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo, whose rise to fame began as an 18-year-old entry in the 2008 Beijing Olympics before gaining more experience in the 2012 London Olympics.
The pride of Zamboanga City finally reached the medal podium with a silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics prior to her golden breakthrough in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games.
The couple expects the academy to be completed before the second quarter of next year with hopes of growing and sustaining the facility through the help of sponsors.
“For the meantime, ours is just an ‘outreach gym.’ We begin by addressing the needs of the athletes here in our community first,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo.
The design of the facility includes four platforms, three of which has room for 24 athletes training simultaneously in two-hour sessions. The remaining platform will accommodate athletes who want to rest.
Paris training camp
The facility will likewise serve as training ground for Diaz-Naranjo’s bid for a fifth straight Olympics in 2024 Paris as well as her 19-year-old protege Rosegie Ramos, who is aiming to join the Filipino weightlifting heroine in the French capital next year.
This early, Diaz-Naranjo has also made it clear that kids will not devote their entire time to weightlifting. The academy will require the young athletes to focus on their schooling as well.
“It’s a requirement. Sometimes we provide scholarships to help them become good citizens that will eventually lead to a better life for their families,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo, who made time for her studies amid her busy schedule and completed her degree in business management at College of St. Benilde.
The academy comes at a time when Diaz-Naranjo feels the momentum of the sport is growing in the country.
“Kids come to our facility every day, although not everyone survives the training. We educate them on focus, discipline and commitment without vices and other activities that could affect their progress,’’ said Diaz-Naranjo.
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The groundbreaking on Sunday was also attended by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair Richard Bachmann and PSC executive director Paulo Francisco Tatad. INQ