MANILA, Philippines -- If the Southeast Asian Games pushes through in Vietnam next year, the chief of the country's weightlifting federation has no doubt that Filipino lifters will dominate.
The 2021 SEA Games was supposed to be held in Hanoi on November 21 to December 2, but has since been postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, the organizing committee has yet to announce new dates for the competition.
Still, Filipino athletes are training in preparation for the biennial event, including lifters who are expected to deliver medals.
Monico Puentevella, president of the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP), believes his athletes can win four gold medals in Hanoi.
"Ang fearless forecast, apat," Puentevella declared recently.
Part of this tally is the gold medal that is expected from Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz. The veteran already won a SEA Games gold medal in 2019 in the women's 55kg division and is planning to compete again in Vietnam to defend her title.
Puentevella is confident that 17-year-old Vanessa Sarno will also win gold, as well as Kristel Macrohon who had already triumphed in the 71kg class in 2019.
"Si Sarno, Asian champion, maggo-gold 'yan," said Puentevella . "Si Kristel Macrohon, nag-gold na sa last SEA Games."
Tokyo Olympian Elreen Ando, who settled for a silver medal in 2019, is expected to grab the gold this time around.
"Si Elreen Ando, natalo lang siya sa SEA Games dahil nagkamali ang coaches ko. I have to admit, tao lang naman," said Puentevella.
Competing in the women's 64k class, Ando made five good lifts and needed to complete 120kg in her last lift in the clean and jerk to secure a gold medal.
But she ran out of time due to a coaching error, and was given a no-lift in her last attempt. Her total of 213kg was just one kilogram off the total of gold medalist Phạm Thị Hồng Thanh of Vietnam.
"Paghawak niya ng bar, nag-time limit na. Dapat nahatak niya, kaya ni Elreen ang gold eh. Ang problema she was leading, pagdating niya sa last lift niya, 'yung dalawang coaches ko, kwento ng kwento, eh may time limit na kayo," Puentevella recalled.
"Pagdating niya sa barbell, nag-ring na 'yung time limit, kaya ang bata umiyak," he added.
Ando and her coaches won't make the same mistake in Vietnam, Puentevella assured.
"Si Elreen maggo-gold din 'yan," he said.
"Apat, fearless forecast ko, apat at least sa SEA Games sa Vietnam," he also said.
The Philippines finished with two golds, three silvers, and two bronzes in the 2019 SEA Games, finishing behind Vietnam (4-5-1) and Indonesia (4-1-5) in the competition.
Before the SEA Games, the federation is set to hold a national weightlifting open in October, where the winners will become the country's representatives to the world championships in November.