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Sarno aims to catch Olympic flight

VANESSA Sarno is determined to catch the last flight to the Paris Olympics when she competes in the women’s 71-kilogram event of the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand. | Photograph COURTESY OF PSC-POC MEDIA POOL

Vanessa Sarno takes the final step towards a spot in the Paris Olympics when she competes in the women’s 71-kilogram event of the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Sarno, a former Southeast Asian Games champion, aims to become the latest member of the vaunted weightlifting team in the Summer Olympics as she and compatriot  Kristel Macrohon see action at 2:30 p.m. (Manila time).

So far, three Filipinos are already on the threshold of the Summer Games — Rosegie Ramos, John Febuar Ceniza and Elreen Ando.

Ramos’ heroic performance in the women’s 49-kg category puts her in the running for the top 10. But her formal qualification still hangs in limbo pending the decision of Belgian lifter Nina Sterckx, who qualified in both 49-kg and 59-kg events.

Also inside the top 10 of the Olympic qualification ranking are Ceniza and Ando in the men’s 61-kg and women’s 59-kg events, respectively.

Although it’s safe to say that they will be joining the trip to Paris, they still have to wait for the formal announcement of the International Weightlifting Federation, which set the cut-off date of the qualifying period on 28 April.

Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas Monico Puentevella said unless something happens, Sarno is expected to make the Summer Games via the virtue of her impressive 249-kgs total that he set at the IWF Grand Prix II last December in Doha.

After all, the Bohol-native is at No. 5 in the Olympic qualifying ranking, making her a cinch to the Paris spectacle that opens on 26 July.

“Unless something happens, she’ll surely make it to the Paris Olympics. She’s ranking no. 5 now in the world in her weight division,” Puentevella told Daily Tribune in a short message.

“She might even get stronger tomorrow night. Hopefully, we’ll have four weightlifters in the Olympics.”

Sarno’s formal qualification will complete the dawn of a new era in Philippine weightlifting.

In fact, all of the possible Olympic qualifiers — Ramos, Ceniza, Ando and Sarno — grew up idolizing Hidilyn Diaz, the first Filipino to win a gold medal in the Summer Games.

Unfortunately, Diaz will not be able to make her fifth straight Olympic appearance after losing to Ando in the women’s 59-kg event.

Sarno said she will compete with no pressure.

“My coaches told me to not pressure myself on my lifts and stay focused on our goal to qualify for the Olympics,” Sarno said.

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