When will church bells ring?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and her coach Julius Naranjo are tying the knot next year but exactly when is still up in the air. But she recently hinted that the wedding may take place during the period in between the SEA Games in May and the Asian Games in September.

Thats because after the Asian Games, shell focus on qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics. At the moment, Diaz and Naranjo are in Malaysia, setting up camp in Malacca but plan to return home for the Christmas holidays. Then, theyll be back in Malacca in March to start rigid training for the SEA Games.

Diaz and Naranjo arrived in Malacca last weekend. They were welcomed by their Malaysian and Filipino friends at the airport. It was in Malacca where Diaz trained in the driveway of a borrowed home on a makeshift platform for the Tokyo Olympics after Kuala Lumpur was locked down because of the pandemic.

Although Diaz hasnt totally committed to competing in Paris, it appears that she will. Otherwise, shed plan for her marriage after the Asian Games. But with the Olympic qualifiers coming up, shell want to be totally focused in getting ready for her fifth Summer Games. Diaz will turn 31 in February so shell be 33 during the Paris Olympics. If she competes in Paris, Diaz will tie shooter Martin Gison for the Philippine record in most Olympic appearances with five. But if she extends her career to the 2028 Los Angeles Games, Diaz will make history as the only Philippine athlete with six Olympic stints and by then, shell be 37. For perspective, the oldest Olympic weightlifter to win a medal was Norbert Schemansky who did it in 1964 at 40. At the recent Tokyo Olympics, Chinas Lu Xiaojun was 37 when he won the weightlifting gold medal in the -81 kilogram category. American weightlifter Karyn Marshall was 43 when she won the gold medal in the +82.5 kilogram class at the Empire State Games in 1999. She was 34 when she took the silver at the World Championships in 1990.

But Diaz isnt inclined to go for a sixth Olympics. “I want to be a mother and start a family,” she said. It may mean retiring from active competition after the Paris Games. Diaz and Naranjo have still to make up their mind on how many children to have. Diaz wants two but Naranjo, six.

Naranjo said what attracted him to Diaz was her beliefs. “Her ability to work hard to achieve her goal, her determination to represent her country proudly, her love of lifting,” he said. “What I also love about her is her smile.” Diaz and Naranjo said theyre hoping to build their own training facility to coach the next generation of Filipino lifters. “Its a dream,” she said. “Weve actually started to look after young lifters, inspiring them to work hard. If we find sponsors, wed love to set up a gym so we can dedicate ourselves to training others.”

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