Paris stint in doubt as Hidilyn says ‘yes’

Courtesy of Hidilyn Diaz Instagram

Two months after winning a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, Hidilyn Diaz got another gold. This time, it’s a golden ring with a large, princess-cut diamond at the middle.

In a social media post, Diaz announced her engagement with Julius Naranjo, her conditioning mentor who has been her boyfriend for the past four years.

The engagement was done before the presence of their very close friends inside a Vubble, the country’s first luxury outdoor pod, at Sheraton Manila.

Diaz said she is very thankful to Naranjo and those who conspired with him for coming up with such a “magical moment.”

“It was a magical moment for me and Julius. I am grateful to God He sent Julius into my life. He made my life easy,” said Diaz, referring to the man who never left her side during those trying times while flaunting her engagement ring that is reportedly worth P500,000 and was designed like a dumbbell with an inscription “Tokyo 2020” in the inner ring layer.

“People knew what we sacrificed of getting the gold medal in the Olympics with Team HD. I was happy when he said God is the center of our relationship.”

Diaz and Naranjo’s love story is one for the books.

After meeting at the sidelines of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2017, Naranjo got the job as Diaz’s strength and conditioning mentor en route to a golden performance in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018 and 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila in 2019.

But their relationship got tested in the buildup for the Olympics.

With the pandemic wreaking havoc around the world, Diaz and Naranjo had nobody to bank on but themselves when they got stranded in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur together with Chinese coach Kaiwen Gao.

They had to come up with creative ways just to stay in shape. At one point, they trained using plastic water bottles and luggage at the parking lot of their condominium building.

Then, they moved their training camp to a remote village in Malacca before flying to Tokyo for the biggest battle of their lives — the Olympics.

Diaz said everything was worth it.

And the marriage proposal that came two months after that golden run makes it even more special.

“There was no doubt that I would say ‘yes’ because I am so lucky that there is somebody like Julius who is loving, understanding and supporting me,” Diaz said.

“Thanks to those who conspired with Julius. You are so good because you made our night very meaningful.”

Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella was the first to congratulate the newly-engaged couple.

Puentevella, who took a gamble on the 17-year-old Diaz when he sent her as a wildcard bet in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, said he is very happy for her despite the fact that it would cast doubt on her participation in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

“Joining the Paris Olympics should be the last thing on her mind at this point,” said Puentevella, a seasoned sport official and former Bacolod lawmaker.

“The important thing is for her to follow her heart and be happy. I am truly happy for her. She deserves all the good things that are going on in her life right now.”

Puentevella said the federation has a long line of young talents who are ready to step up if and when Diaz decides to call it quits and starts her own family.

“She should not worry, weightlifting is in good hands. She had already done more than enough to uplift the sport. Because of her, we were able to develop a lot of young athletes who are ready to fill the void that her possible absence would create.”

“So to Hidilyn and Julius, congratulations! Stay happy and in-love.”

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