MANILA, Philippines–Weightlifting icon Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo would have to beg off from defending her title in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
It’s quite understandable since the Cambodian edition of the SEA Games in Phnom Penh on May 5-17 would run into conflict with the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships where a much larger bounty is at stake.
Aside from being an Olympic qualifying tournament, the Asian champs scheduled May 3-13 in Jinju, South Korea can put Diaz-Naranjo on the spotlight against the best not only in the continent, but in the world at the women’s 59kg class.
“We had asked Jinju to move the schedule of the competition, (Asian championships) but it didn’t materialize, so we have to adjust,” said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella.
Reigning Tokyo Olympics champion Kuo Hsing-chun of Chinese Taipei will certainly be there as well as silver medalist Polina Guryeva of Turkmenistan and bronze performer Mikiko Ando of Japan.
Diaz-Naranjo won the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo by topping the women’s 55kg class, the same weight she dominated in the IWF World Championships in Bogota, Colombia last month.
That weight category, however, has been scratched by Paris organizers come 2024, forcing Diaz-Naranjo to move up to a heavier weight in a bold bid to claim back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
Diaz-Naranjo will have to compete with fellow Tokyo Olympian Elreen Ando in the same weight class as both lifters see action in the Asian championships.
“[Hidilyn] will skip the SEA Games because she wants to focus on 59kg. Since Ando has been competing in the same weight, they will both show up in the Asian championships,” said Puentevella.
The Filipino weightlifting idol should go through five qualifying tournaments before the Paris Olympics with two of them compulsory events—the 2023 IWF World Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sept. 2-17, 2023 and the 2024 IWF World Cup.
Diaz-Naranjo said she already had one tournament in her pocket with the world champs in Colombia and expects three more meets this year, including the Saudi Arabia worlds.
“I’m not thinking of just qualifying. My goal is to become the best lifter in these (qualifying) tournaments,” said Diaz-Naranjo.
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