The whole nation indeed celebrated when our very own Hidilyn Diaz clinched the first-ever Olympic gold medal of the Philippines following her momentous stint in the women’s 55kg category of the weightlifting event in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics 2020.
But the world witnessed how one man in a blue shirt immediately ran towards her from the backstage to give her a tight, warm embrace as soon as her victory was declared. While many we’re surely curious about his identity, those who have followed the journey of the Pinay athlete through the years know that he is someone really special to her because he is her strength and conditioning coach-slash-beloved boyfriend Julius Irvin Naranjo.
And in her Magandang Buhay interview on Thursday, July 29, she wasn’t able to hide her kilig as she talked about him upon being asked by Momshie Jolina Magdangal-Escueta.
“Before no’ng laro ko, bigla niyang sinabi sa’kin, ‘God is the center of our relationship.’ Parang sabi ko, ‘wow, Lord!’,” she recounted as she gestured how hearing that completely thrilled her. “Answered prayed ‘yon na marinig sa kanya. Then sinabi niya lang sa akin na ‘naniniwala akong kaya mo’.”
She went on to impart how they’ve been preparing for the competition in the past months – from going through heavy trainings every Monday, up to planning their strategy in the game and conditioning her physically and mentally.
Many of us were also aware of how tough her journey had been before the competition. But with the presence of her partner and the inspiration and unwavering support he provides, along with her whole team and all the people who believe in her, the Pinay weightlifter from Zamboanga City was able to conquer the odds and took home the elusive Olympic gold medal.
They’ve been blissfully together for three years already, thus, it’s safe to say that Hidilyn is definitely a winner in love, too! And we’re able to further get a glimpse of their admirable romance in their appearance in the “Panalo sa Pag-ibig” episode of the ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs program Sports U in 2019.
The couple met at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2017, wherein both of them competed. Julius, a Filipino-Japanese weightlifter, represented Guam in the 62kg weight category, while Hidilyn fought for the Philippines and took home a silver medal in the women's 53 kg. He confessed immediately getting drawn upon seeing her performance in that competition and being inspired by her willpower, without any idea how significant she was in Philippine sports.
But capturing her heart was not easy as it took him a long time before he’s able to finally persuade her to let him into her life, more so to become his coach, following his back injury that pushed him to take early retirement. He decided to set aside his own personal goals and help her and the Philippines in any way he could.
He also recounted spending money to buy plane tickets to watch and surprise her in most of her competitions, but that still didn’t sway her since she was too focused on her goal of clinching a medal in her next stints.
While their relationship is admired by many, Julius admitted that being a coach and boyfriend at the same time has not been entirely easy. Aside from witnessing her going through different emotions and physical pains, as well as her losses, they have their own share of misunderstandings too.
“Malaki ang naging impact niya sa akin. Kung maging successful or kung maging gold medalist ako sa Olympics, naging parte siya ng success ko at sinuportahan niya ako,” Hidilyn stated.
Despite their hectic trainings, she makes sure to make up for her shortcomings as a girlfriend by spending quality time and being affectionate with him, as well as expressing her love for him.
Aside from being her bread and butter and “first love”, weightlifting has also taught her a lot about love and life in general.
“’Yong sport, ipinaintindi sa akin na ‘yong success kasi hindi palaging winner ka, hindi parating nanalo ka. Kundi, may mga times na may mga challenges, may mga times na talo ka sa mga laban. Just like in relationship, may mga times na nag-aaway kami, may mga times na may understanding kami dahil pinili namin ang pagmamahal namin. ‘Yong relationship namin, pinaglalaban namin,” she remarked.
The same goes for Julius who said that weightlifting taught him about understanding the pain and the struggles in order to fully conquer any challenges that would come their way.
Congratulations on your historic win, Hidilyn Diaz and team!