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MANILA, Philippines – Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz stands as a heavy favorite in the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP) believes several other lifters are capable of carrying the weight of expectations.
SWP president Monico Puentevella projected that the weightlifting national team can win a maximum of five gold medals in the regional showpiece in Hanoi, Vietnam this May.
“My fearless forecast, I think minimum of two, but we’ll fight for four to five gold medals (all in the women’s category),” Puentevella said in Filipino on Tuesday, April 19 during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) online forum.
“In the men’s division, we can pull surprises. We’re doing well, so you never know.”
Diaz will defend her gold medal in the SEA Games in the 55-kilogram women’s category – the same division where she bagged the country’s first gold in the Olympics last year in Japan.
Puentevella also named Vanessa Sarno, Kristel Macrohon, and Elreen Ando as gold-medal potentials in the biennial meet set May 12 to 23. The weightlifting event is a three-day event scheduled to begin on the 19th.
Sarno is the reigning Asian champion in the -71kg women’s division, while Macrohon bagged gold in the +71kg. Ando, a Tokyo Olympics veteran, claimed silver in the 64kg of the 2019 SEA Games and 2021 Asian championships.
Other gold-medal potentials are Asian championship silver medalist Mary Flor Diaz (45kg), 2019 SEA Games silver medalist Margaret Colonia (59kg), and Rio Olympics bet Nestor Colonia in the 67kg men’s.
Other members of the national team are Rosegie Ramos in the 49kg women’s, Fernando Agad (55kg), John Dexter Tabique (-89kg), Rowel Garcia (61kg), John Kevin Padullo (+89kg), and Lemon Tarro (73kg) for the men’s division.
Filipino coaches Gregorio Colonia, Nicolas Jaluag, Gary Hortelano, and Patrick Lee will join the national weightlifting team in the SEA Games, along with Julius Naranjo of Guam – the coach of Diaz.
According to Puentevella, the lifters are now back training at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila for the final preparation for the SEA Games. Diaz, he said, has requested to fly to Hanoi 10 days before the competition, while the entire contingent will follow four days prior to the event.
“I think with all modesty aside, this is their tryout (SEA Games) for Asian Games,” said Puentevella, a former legislator and mayor of Bacolod City. “Whoever wins the gold medal, silver medal, they’ll be in the Asian Games.”
“They are not only looking at the SEA Games, they are also looking at Asian Games and the World Championship,” added Puentevella, who mentioned Vietnam as the toughest challenge for Team Philippines in the regional meet. – Rappler.com