Hidilyn Diaz’s Chinese coach had nothing but admiration for her ward after securing the first Olympic gold medal of the Philippines, but admitted having “mixed feelings” after seeing their team beat a fellow Chinese.
Chinese Coach Gao Kaiwen was one of the key pieces that helped Diaz in her preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 64-year-old Gao is a seasoned veteran who previously served as head coach of the Chinese national women’s army team. He joined Diaz’s team in 2018 and two months after, Diaz won gold in the Asian Games in Jakarta.
In previous interviews, Hidilyn usually showered praises on Gao, saying that his training helped improve her lifts and even just having him around was a big boost due to his positive personality.
"Coach Gao is really good, and he is strict with me. He is good for athletes because not every coach can understand how an athlete thinks and moves. He is really good at teaching me the techniques. He knows the basics of weightlifting and my personality quite well. It is different when you learn new things with him," Diaz told the Chinese state-run agency Xinhua.
In the Xinhua interview, Gao also shared how he even became Diaz's chef when they were training during the COVID-19 lockdown in Malaysia.
"We moved from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, to several other places and finally settled down in Malacca, in which we got a fixed training venue and built a gym by ourselves in the backyard. Actually, I was in charge of every meal of Diaz in Malaysia, so I'm both her coach and chef," recalled Gao.
Gao likewise had nothing but praises on her ward.
"It is not an easy job for a girl coming from a poor family of Zamboanga City, the Philippines, to keep up intense training at the age of 30," said Gao.
But Gao also shared how he felt after seeing his fellow Chinese Liao Qiuyun, who was a formidable world record holder, lose to Diaz.
“It was a great pity to watch the athlete from my country take a silver," he told Xinhua.
The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines has also issued a statement congratulating Diaz and expressing pride in Gao’s participation in the team.
“Glad to learn that Hidilyn's team is composed of Chinese head coach Gao Kaiwen, strength and conditioning coach Julius Naranjo, psychologist Dr. Karen Trinindad, and sports nutritionist Jeaneth Aro. Truly humbled to see that a Chinese coach has helped in making this historic win happen for the Philippines,” said Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.
(Banner photo: Team Hidilyn Diaz with Coach Gao, second from right, from Diaz's Instagram)