Behind every athlete’s triumphs or downfalls is a team that plays the supporting roles to ensure that their champion is at peak condition upon entering the arena. With the country’s first Olympic gold medal finally obtained in the recent 2020 Tokyo Olympics, spectators might be interested to know the team behind Hidilyn Diaz, the woman who won the elusive Olympic gold.
Among Team HD, the team behind the country’s golden girl, are Kaiwen Gao (head weightlifting coach), Julius Naranjo (assistant weightlifting coach and strength and conditioning coach), Dr. Karen Trinidad (sports psychologist), and Jeaneth Aro, “Hidy’s” sports nutritionist and support coach.
The winning formula
As a registered nutritionist and dietitian, Aro was in charge of Diaz’s nutrition plan, making sure that the athlete’s daily food and drink intake was monitored, cementing Aro as an important figure in the success of Diaz.
“Napakalawak ng nutrition program na pinag-uusapan natin dito that led to her gold medal win in the Olympics,” she expresses. It was a continuous process that was consistently refined according to her needs as an athlete. There were different approaches to her nutrition depending on whether Diaz was training, competing, or recovering. “We’ve been doing this program since 2019. And finally, in the Olympics, ‘yung product ng continuous refinement was put to test. And it proved to be the best approach so far that allowed us to win the gold,” she adds.
(The nutrition program that we are talking about here is really broad.)
Aro reiterates how nutrition is the groundwork for an athlete’s success. After all, nutrition is a major part of an athlete’s preparation from the very beginning. “Sa training phase pa lang dapat binibigyan na ito ng importance because it helps the athlete’s body to optimize their body composition. Napakaimportante ‘yung kinakain nila sa simula pa lang para hindi sila mahirapan na mag-maintain ng weight, maka-gain ng tamang amount of muscle mass, at mabawasan ‘yung body fat.” With Diaz’s nutrition strategies, her body was able to endure stressful competitions and perform at its peak.
(Even in the training phase, [nutrition] should be given importance because it helps the athlete’s body to optimize their body composition. Their food intake from the very beginning is important so that maintaining their weight, gaining the right amount of muscle mass, and lessening their body fat will not be a problem.)
Bumps along the road
Aro shares that the postponement of the Olympics was the number one problem for their team because of the “constant anxiety of the uncertainty.” The team did not know whether the competition would push through even two weeks prior to the event.
However, the nutritional aspect of Diaz’s training program was designed to be flexible and adjust to any changes that would occur. “Kung ano lang ‘yung available na food, I work within those limitations. For Diaz, noong nagkaroon ng Movement Control Order [in Malaysia], nabawasan ‘yung nakakain niya outside of the meal plan. Mas naging controlled ‘yung take niya,” Aro utters.
(I work within the limitations of what food is available. For Diaz, when there was a Movement Control Order [in Malaysia], the amount of food she ate outside of the meal plan was reduced. Her food intake became more controlled.)
On Diaz defending her Olympic title in Paris 2024, Aro says that she has not yet relayed a final decision to the team. Aro ensures that Team HD will continue to provide support until the next Olympics, except coach Gao who will be returning home to China soon.
Though an Olympic return is still an unanswered question, Aro assures that Diaz will continue to be seen in the competition stage up to the 2022 Asian Games in China, at the least.