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Lifters shine sans Hidilyn

ELREEN Ando and the national weightlifting squad prove that they can win even without Hidilyn Diaz. Photo by Nhac NGUYEN / AFP

It was a job well done for the national weightlifting team as it pulled off impressive victories in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games despite the absence of Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz.

National coach Tony Agustin lauded the performance of his nine-man squad after surpassing its medal production in the previous biennial meet in Hanoi.

Olympian Elreen Ando and Vanessa Sarno ruled the women’s 59-kilogram and 71-kg events in record-breaking fashion while John Ceniza took home the silver medal in the men’s 61-kg class, the same color of medal won by Angeline Colonia in the women’s 49-kg event and Rosalinda Faustino in the women’s 55-kg category.

Dexter Tabugue, meanwhile, grabbed the bronze in the men’s 89-kg event, leaving former SEA Games gold medalist Kristel Macrohon and Dave Pacaldo as only athletes without a medal after missing the podium in the women’s 71-kg and men’s 67-kg classes, respectively.

Agustin said the lifters started to work hard after getting inspired by the silver medal that Diaz won in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

“Our athletes were inspired after seeing Hidilyn take home the silver medal in Rip. They have been training hard, knowing that the success that Hidilyn achieved could happen to them as well,” said Agustin, who coached Diaz in the early part of her career.

Agustin added that they were impressed with the resilience and determination of the lifters, who trooped to Phnom Penh straight from the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championship in Jinju, South Korea.

“Considering these kids just competed in the Asian Weightlifting Championships, they are basically coming from war. That’s why we’re satisfied with their performance,” Agustin said, extending his gratitude to the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas and Philippine Sports Commission.

“We all know that during the Vietnam SEA Games, it was a pandemic period so all of us are stuck inside and despite the aggressive training, we were only limited with the support we can give.”

“After that, the program improved and so did the support by the SWP and the PSC.”

Agustin stressed that they will treat the SEA Games as the training ground of lifters who will transition from the junior to the senior squad.

“Since we already put them in youth championships and they have been performing well so far, we’re now training them to compete in the senior level since our goal is to build Olympic athletes,” Agustin said.

“If we can sustain our gold medalists in the youth stages, we can get the gold in the junior, senior and then the Olympics. That’s the plan.”

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