Vanessa Sarno: Princess of PHL weightlifting



HANOI—Vanessa Sarno put on a remarkable show of strength and grit that could very well earn her the title as the princess of Philippine weightlifting.

Sarno, only 18, clobbered the opposition in the women’s 71 kgs category by winning a gold medal in Southeast Asian Games record fashion as the Philippines slipped past Singapore in a heated battle for fourth place in the overall medals race.

Sarno, considered the heir apparent to 31-year-old Tokyo Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz, set records of 104 kgs in the snatch, 135 kgs in clean and jerk and 239 kgs in total lift to snatch the country’s fourth gold medal for the day.

Her illustrious effort put the country into a tie with Singapore in terms of gold medals won, but with more silvers—65-44—and bronzes—87-66—Team Philippines occupied the No. 4 spot in the medals race behind insatiable host Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

Vietnam picked up more wins and improved to 173-102-100 (gold-silver-bronze) with Thailand a far second (71-84-116) and Indonesia steady at third (57-75-67).

Three gold medals were won earlier in the day—Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales in men’s doubles of tennis, and Rubilen Amit and reigning US Open champion Carlo Biado in 10-ball singles of billiards.

“I’m so happy I was able to contribute a gold medal,” Sarno said. “I sacrificed a lot in training and I could say that I prepared very well for this gold medal.”

Sarno’s three records went with the new Philippine standard of 93 kgs that Diaz set in the snatch en route to her repeat victory in the women’s 55 kgs class last Friday.

“I cried for several nights, I went through so many difficulties,” said Sarno, who established herself as one of the certified stars of Team Philippines backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Olympic Committee which is returning home at dawn Monday. “And there were several occasions that I doubted myself.”

The women’s football team edged Myanmar, 2-1, at the Campha Stadium in Campha City after surrendering an early goal and bagged a breakthrough bronze medal in front of a full-house, flag-waving Vietnamese crowd clad in blood red shirts.

Sarina Bolden and Quinley Quezada scored the goals and emerged as the heroines of the squad that matched the bronze medal finish of the men’s team in the 1991 Manila Games.

Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, the POC president, expressed the hope that other athletes would deliver in other fronts on the final day of action Sunday, among them boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Rogen Ladon and Ian Clark Bautista.

“We’re in the thick of the race for fourth and that’s commendable in the light of decisions in sports disciplines where judging has been controversial,” Tolentino said, referring to stunning defeats in non-measurable disciplines like boxing, taekwondo, dancesport, karate, pencak silat, and wushu, among others.

“But we’re confident we can pull through. I have faith in our athletes,” he added.

PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, meanwhile, reiterated his call to sports leaders and the public alike to look at the bigger picture, saying the stint of the Pinoys here is part of the country’s build-up for bigger competitions like the Asian Games and Olympics.  

“Let us not make any judgments or criticisms of our athletes who are still competing in Vietnam. Let us not discourage them and continue to support them all the way,” Ramirez said.

“We will continue to pray for their safety and health, whatever their performance. We are very happy and proud of our athletes and coaches who fought hard for our country and people,” he stressed.

The country is also assured of two gold medals in basketball after the men’s and women’s squads beat Malaysia, 87-44, and Singapore, 88-61, respectively, to move within one more win of retaining the crowns.

The country’s worst finish since it started participating in the biennial games in 1977 in Malaysia was seventh in the 2013 games in Myanmar where Filipino athletes had a dismal haul of 29 gold, 34 silver and 37 medals.

The country also finished sixth overall four times—in the 2007 Thailand, 2011 Indonesia, 2015 Singapore and 2017 Malaysia Games—and fifth in the 1989 Kuala Lumpur, 1999 Brunei, 2001 Kuala Lumpur and 2009 Laos Games.

Huey and Gonzales delivered the first gold medal for the day, beating fellow Pinoys Jeson Patrombon and Francis Casey Alcantara 6-1, 6-4 in a rematch of their finals duel in 2019.

The golden win was the first for the tennis contingent here, along with the silver of Patrombon and Alcantara and bronze medals from Alex Eala in women’s singles,  

It was the first gold medal of the Filipinos in tennis in these games, to go with the silver of Patrombon and Alcantara and four bronze medals courtesy of Alex Eala in women’s singles, mixed doubles (Huey and Eala), men’s (Huey, Patrombon and Eric Olivarez Jr.) and women’s team (Eala, Marian Jade Capadocia, Shaira Hope Rivera, and Jenaila Rose Prulla) event. Billiards followed suit, with Amit beating Chezka Centeo 7-5 and Biado prevailing over Johann Chua 9-3.

Image credits: NONIE REYES



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