MANILA, Philippines – It was tough the first time, a year ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And it will not get any easier in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia later this month.
Nestor Colonia will be the Philippines’ lone weightlifting representative for the 2017 Southeast Asian Games and the odds have never been stacked higher against him.
The Zamboanga City native is expecting no less than the Olympic-level competition he experienced last year when he faces rivals Thailand and Vietnam in a virtual rematch of the Rio Games.
“Parang hindi nga SEA Games ‘yung pupuntahan ko e, parang Olympics,” he forebodingly told Rappler in a phone interview as he trained in his hometown. (It doesn’t feel like I’m going to the SEA Games, it feels like the Olympics.)
To compound things further, Colonia will have to survive tough foes with only one good knee. Colonia, who will lift in the 56-kg division, is enduring a hurt right knee that had to be drained of uric acid in late July.
“Iniisip ko kasi maglaro, mag-medal kasi natatalo ko rin naman sila e,” he said of his opponents. “Kaso nga lang may injury ako, mahirap. Dito pa lang sa training ‘di ko nagagawa ‘yung 90% ko e. Ang hirap. Masakit.”
(All I’m thinking about is competing, to win a medal because I could beat them. But I have an injury, it’s hard. In training I can’t even do my 90%. It’s difficult. It’s painful.)
In Rio, Colonia failed to get a successful lift in the clean and jerk and ended up with a DNF or Did Not Finish on his record (along with Vietnam’s Thach Kim Tuan). Thailand’s Sinphet Kruaithong bagged the bronze with a total of 289 kg lifted as compatriot Witoon Mingmoon picked up 8th place. Another Vietnamese, Tran Le Quoc Toan, came in at 5th place.
Colonia has not joined any major tournaments since Rio and has been in serious training since around March, shuttling between Manila and Zamboanga City. He practices every day each afternoon, the pain in his knee thoroughly bothering him and his progress.
“Nabubuhat ko pero hindi abot sa 100%, like sa 150 kilos kasi masakit na tuhod ko,” Colonia explained, adding he manages the injury by stretching and oral medication. “140 kilos pa lang bumibigay na tuhod ko, hindi ako makatayo.”
(I can lift but not my full 100%, like 150 kilos because my knee hurts. At 140 kilos my knee already gives out, I couldn’t stand.)
Elbert Atilano, vice president of the Philippine Weightlifting Association, likewise rued Colonia’s untimely injury, especially since the Philippines won’t have Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz going for gold in the women’s division (Malaysia removed women’s weightlifting this year).
“Usually tinatanggal nila (hosts) ‘yung events sa SEA Games na mahina sila. Ibig sabihin, walang babae doon na malakas,” he told Rappler in a phone interview. (Usually the hosts remove SEA Games events where they are weak. It means they don’t have strong female weightlifters.)
Atilano explained they decided to send only Colonia because they wanted to be realistic about which lifters had medal chances. He said they are treating the SEA Games as a major competition – up there with the Olympics and the Asian Games – which means they don’t intend to use it to simply give exposure to young lifters who are unlikely to make the podium.
“So ginagawa namin ngayon sa mga junior namin, pinapadala namin sa junior competition, youth competition, in preparation for these major competitions,” he said.
“Sa ngayon ang nakikita namin it’s only Nestor. And ayaw naman namin mambola na sasabihin na kaya and then later on pag dating dito kahit isang kusing hindi makakuha. So buti na lang sabihin ‘yung totoo.”
(What we’re doing now with our junior lifters is we send them to junior competitions, youth competitions, in preparation for these major competitions. For now we only see Nestor. And we don’t want to pretend otherwise and then later on watch lifters win nothing. So it’s best to be honest about it.)
The weightlifting events – with a total of 5 weight classes – will take place from August 28 to 30. – Rappler.com