Weightlifting: After breakout performance, Vanessa Sarno sets sights on SEA Games


Posted at May 05 2021 04:24 PM

Weightlifting: After breakout performance, Vanessa Sarno sets sights on SEA Games 1
Pinay weightlifter Vanessa Sarno won 2 gold medals for the Philippines in the recent Asian Weightlifting Championships. Photo grabbed from IWF livefeed

MANILA, Philippines -- Expectations are soaring for young weightlifter Vanessa Sarno after her breakout performance in the recent Asian Weightlifting Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Sarno, 17, registered new personal best marks to cop two golds and a silver in the 71kg division of the tournament held late April. 

She lifted 101kg in the snatch and 128kg in the clean and jerk for a total of 229kg, well above the 223kg lifted by the runner-up, Gülnabat Kadyrowa of Turkmenistan. 

For the teenager, topping her weight class was unexpected.

"Hindi po namin in-expect po na mag-gold po ako, kasi nga sa entry po, sa start list, pang-third lang po 'yung chance ko po doon," Sarno explained in an appearance on "The Game," Tuesday night. 

"Kami po lahat, hindi po kami nage-expect na maggo-gold po ako sa laro na 'yun. Ang saya po noong nalaman namin na gold po ako, ang enjoy po ng game ko po," she added.

Sarno's impressive performance in the Uzbekistan tilt further added to the hype around her, with the president of the country's weightlifting federation already dubbing her as the heir apparent to Hidilyn Diaz.

While being compared to an Olympic silver medalist further motivates Sarno, the teenager also admits it adds to the pressure.

"Medyo nakakadagdag pressure po siya kasi medyo po mataas na po 'yung expectation ng mga tao po sa 'yo," she said. "Parang nakakakaba po, kasi sa mga next na game mo po, parang hindi ka sure kung ano 'yung mangyayari sa laro."

The hype will only grow should Sarno be granted a wild card to the Tokyo Olympics, as Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas President Monico Puentevella is fervently hoping. So far, only Diaz has secured an Olympic berth among the Filipino lifters.

Puentevella is crossing his fingers that Elreen Ando and Kristel Macrohon will also qualify by virtue of their ranking, and he is asking the international federation for a possible wild card for Sarno.

"That is how I started [with] Hidilyn," Puentevella said recently. Diaz was a wild card entry in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a teenager; eight years later, she won a silver in Rio de Janeiro and is now eyeing a historic gold in Tokyo.

Sarno, for her part, is taking things slowly. Her focus at the moment is on the Southeast Asian Games, to be held this November in Hanoi, Vietnam. The young lifter did not compete in the 30th SEA Games in Manila two years ago.

"May tryouts po kami, kung sino po 'yung makakalaro sa SEA Games," she said. "'Yung goal ko po talaga is 'yung SEA Games."

If she makes the team, Puentevella is confident that Sarno will stamp her class on her regional rivals in Hanoi.

"I'm sure si Sarno, walang laban 'yan [sa SEA Games]," the federation chief has said. "Sinong lalaban diyan?"

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