SEA Games: Podium hype growing for shot-putter John Albert Mantua

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Feb 25 2022 12:15 PM | Updated as of Feb 26 2022 05:25 AM

From a dismal campaign at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, John Albert Mantua could bag a medal in Vietnam, thanks to hard work and taking his coach’s advice to heart. Handout
From a dismal campaign at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, John Albert Mantua could bag a medal in Vietnam, thanks to hard work and taking his coach’s advice to heart. Handout

From a virtual nobody on the national track and field pool to a potential medalist at the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games.

The road to recognition has been a tough one for shot-putter John Albert Mantua, who garnered a second trip to the regional sportsfest Wednesday after topping his pet event with a personal-best throw of 17.02 meters at the PATAFA Performance and Time Trials held at Baguio Athletic Bowl in Baguio City.

With a picture-perfect first attempt, he surpassed the qualifying standard of the bronze medal throw of 16.40 meters set by Thailand’s Promrob Juntina at the 2019 SEA Games track and field meet held at New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas town, Tarlac.

Even more remarkable, Mantua was tantalizingly close to the silver-medal winning throw of 17.03 meters of Malaysian Muhammad Ziyad Zoelkifli, according to former Philippine Sports Commission statistician Andrew Pirie, who now runs the website pinoyathletics.info.

The men’s shot put event was won by William Morrison III, who made his SEA Games debut clinching the gold in a new national record of 18.38 meters.

“He (Mantua) is the first and only homegrown talent to breach the 17-meter barrier in the shot put,” said proud national field coach Arniel Ferrera, a 4-time Southeast Asian Games men’s hammer throw champion, of his blooming protégé. 

What makes Mantua’s feat even more impressive, Pirie added, was that his latest performance was 76 centimeters better than his previous best of 16.26 meters when he topped the Ayala Philippines Athletic Championships also at the same arena in December. 

In an event where progress is measured by small increments, this is an eye-popping 30-inch improvement, which the athlete credited to his coach and his 3 months of intensive training in the Pines City through the support of the PSC.

To think that this astonishing breakthrough was achieved by someone who had a forgettable maiden outing 3 years ago at the SEA Games, winding up 5th in a field of 6 entries with a throw of 15.85 meters. 

“Malaking tulong po ’yong 3 months of hard training dito po sa Baguio at ’yong pagsunod po sa mga instructions ni coach Arniel (The 3 months of hard training in Baguio was a big help and following the instructions of coach Arniel),” said the athlete, who was the back-to-back NCAA men’s discus thrown and shot put champ in 2012 and 2013 while playing for Jose Rizal University.

Ferrera said: “It’s a long process and very challenging to convince and change his (Mantua’s) mindset. And I’m so grateful na nagbunga din ang tiyaga ko at support ng asawa ko (And I’m so grateful that my patience bore fruit with the help of my wife).”

He revealed that Mantua and his wife May had taken the athlete under the couple’s wing, like one of their own children. 

“Your hard work, perseverance and outstanding mental preparation have paid off. Thank you for your trust and confidence working with me and our program,” the coach posted on his Facebook page in tribute to the 29-year-old General Santos City native after his sterling showing.

Mantua said: “Lahat na po binigay ni coach Arniel sa akin. Lagi niya akong mino-motivate. Ang sabi niya kaya kong mag-medal pero nasa akin na daw yon kung paano kong gagawin.(Coach Arniel has given me everything. He always motivates me. He told me that it was ultimately up to me to win a medal).” 

Weighing 120 kilos (264.5 pounds), Mantua disclosed that battling for the silver medal was not a remote possibility since he was already throwing 15.03 to 15.35 meters regularly in practice.

A pushover in the last SEA Games held at home, expect the burly athlete to throw his weight around in a bid for a strong podium finish in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi less than 3 months from now.