HANOI—They call her the future of weightlifting.
In the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Vanessa Sarno’s time came.
Securing the gold early in the final of the women’s 71-kilogram weightlifting, Sarno flexed her superiority by using up her attempts to reset three meet records on Saturday at Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center.
“I knew that I could do it because we had a great training camp,” said Sarno, who is only 18. “When I got the snatch, I know I will win the [clean and] jerk.”
Sarno lifted a total of 239kg, a whopping 16kg difference over silver medalist Siriyakorn Khaipandung of Thailand (223kg). Anggi Restu (212kg) finished with the bronze.
Before the Bohol-born teenager stepped on the stage, the SEA Games records looked like this: 101kg for snatch, 123kg for clean and jerk and 227kg for total.
Sarno erased all that with lifts of 104kg in snatch and 135kg in clean and jerk. Her total here would have won her the gold medal in the world championships last December, where she missed the bronze medal on countback.
“Thank you very much to all who believed in me,” said an emotional Sarno in Filipino.
But once the emotions settled, Sarno immediately refocused on bigger plans, plotting her path to the Paris 2024 Olympics—she intends to join all qualifying tournaments for the Summer Games—and pursuing the seeds of ambition that Hidilyn Diaz planted in her.
“She (Diaz) said in sports, your life will change [for the better],” said Sarno, thanking the Philippine Sports Commission and the MVP Sports. “This is it. I won the SEA Games. Thanks to those who supported me.”
“This is the face of the future,” said Samahang Weighlifting sa Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella of Sarno.
Before she gears up for her Paris journey, however, Sarno wants to go home and hug her family after spending a month cooped up in a training camp at Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila.
“I just want to enjoy this,” the Asian champion said.
Earlier, Puentevella was fuming over the loss of Olympian Elreen Ando in the women’s 64-kg division, which he said was caused by miscommunication.
Thi Hong Thanh Pham, the defending champion, pulled off a bluff in their clean and jerk when she hiked her weight from 120kg to 130kg. That prompted the Filipina to immediately get back to the stage for 130kg after a fail at 125kg.
The 23-year-old from Cebu staggered back while putting on her support belt and ultimately failed at 130kg. Thanh Pham then readjusted to 126kg to handily win the gold medal with the Games record total of 230 (104-126).
The Vietnamese’s ploy was almost similar to the strategy employed by Diaz in the Olympics, where she won the historic gold medal with a weight-submitting plot that cornered her Chinese foe, Liao Qiuyun.
Ando totaled 223 (103-120) to settle for silver, while Tsabitha Ramadani of Indonesia finished third with 100-116-216.
“She didn’t have to hurry, she still had enough time,” said Puentevella. The scenario harked back to the 2019 edition of the biennial meet when Ando ran out of time in losing to, incidentally, the same Vietnamese.
Before leaving for Hanoi, Sarno told the Inquirer that she would do everything in her power to win her first gold in the biennial meet.
As it turned out, she won with plenty to spare.
The Bohol standout needed minimum lifts to corner the gold and used the remainder of her attempts to establish SEA Games marks.
It was the second gold medal for the Philippines in weightlifting after Diaz, the country’s first and only Olympic gold medalist, ruled the women’s 55kg class.
Diaz has said she sees Sarno as a young talent who could be her heir.
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