HANOI – Reigning Asian champion Vanessa Sarno blew away the competition with a dominant victory in the women’s 71kg division of weightlifting Saturday, providing the golden win that powered the Philippines past Singapore in their heated battle for fourth in the 31st Southeast Asian Games here on Saturday.
Sarno, at 18 is considered the heir apparent to 31-year-old Tokyo Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz, set new records of 104kg in the snatch, 135kg in the clean and jerk, and 239kg total in delivering the country’s fourth win for the day that left the Pinoy contingent tied in gold medal production with Singapore at 47.
The Philippines, however, had more silver medals 65-44 at press time, along with a big 87-66 edge in bronze medals, to move up to fourth.
Vietnam picked up more wins and improved its games-leading haul to 173-103-103, with Thailand a far second (75-86-118), and Indonesia holding steady at third (57-77-68).
Three gold medals earlier in the day, courtesy of Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales in the men’s doubles of tennis, and the 10-ball singles wins of Rubilen Amit and reigning US Open champion Carlo Biado, propped up the Philippine drive.
Sarno, whose three records went with the new Philippine mark of 93kg that Diaz set in the snatch en route to her repeat victory in the women’s 55kg class last Friday, said she is very happy that hard work paid off and made her confident to win gold medal.
“Sa laro ko po, hindi ko mina-mind ang kalaban, ‘yung sarili ko lang po ang iniisip ko. Ilang gabi po akong umiiyak, sobrang dami ko po pinagdaanan. Maraming beses po akong nag-doubt sa sarili ko na baka hindi ako ‘yung maglalaro sa SEA Games. Pero pagdating dito, sobrang confident na po ako, kasi napakaganda po ng preparation ko (I did not think of my opponents, I just focused on my performance. I had sleepless nights just to prepare for this. I had also doubts that I might not qualify for the SEA Games. But when I arrived here, I’m so confident because of my preparation),” she said.
Sarno won two gold medals April last year in the Asian Weightlifting Championships Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
With her welcome win, Sarno established herself as one of the certified stars of the national contingent backed by the Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Olympic Committee returning home this weekend.
Breakthrough football bronze
The Philippine 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 football squad that matched the bronze medal finish of the men’s football team back 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.
Preparation for bigger competitions
Philippine Sports Commission William “Butch” Ramirez 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 Gilas Pilipinas 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.
For the record, the country’s worst finish since it started participating in the biennial games in 1977 was seventh in the 2013 games in Myanmar where Pinoy 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.
And then came Sarno’s record-breaking triumph. (PR)