Weightlifting young guns brace for busy May competition slate

RISING young weightlifting star Vanessa Sarno and Tokyo Olympian Elreen Ando will try to kill two birds with one stone as they shoot for Paris Olympics qualifying points in the Asian Championships in Jinju, South Korea and Southeast Asian Games gold medal in Phnom Penh in the span of a week this month.

Ms. Sarno, 19, and Ms. Ando, 24, are both scheduled to see action in Jinju on May 3-9 and in the 32nd edition of the biennial meet in the Cambodian capital where they are slated to plunge into action from May 13 to 16.

Ms. Sarno, the cheerful Tagbiliran, Bohol native, has been living up to expectations as Tokyo Olympics gold winner Hidilyn Diaz’s heiress apparent after topping the Asian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan three years ago at 16 years old and last year’s Hanoi Games in the -71-kilogram class.

She is expected to try to replicate those same feats especially in Jinju where she has a chance to earn qualifying points to next year’s Paris Olympics.

Ms. Diaz will also compete in Jinju where she will battle Ando in the 59 kg division while deciding to skip the Phnom Penh event to preserve her energy to seek a second Olympic gold in Paris.

To qualify for Paris, Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella said they would need to participate in at least five Olympic qualifying events and earn the necessary points.

Ms. Diaz and Ms. Ando went through the same process in securing their spots in the 55 kg and 59 kg division, respectively, to the 2021 Tokyo Games where the former delivered the country’s first Olympic gold.

But since Ms. Diaz’s category was scrapped, she was forced to climb up to the next weight class that Ms. Ando was in.

“Hidilyn and Elreen Ando will compete in the Asian Championship and try to earn qualifying points to the Paris Olympics in the same weight class on May 7,” said Mr. Puentevella.

“Unfortunately, only one per country per event can qualify to the Olympics,”

Also competing in Jinju are John Ceniza and the young and talented Ramos sisters Rosegie and Rose Jean. — Joey Villar