Without even trying, hurting Vanessa Sarno puts on another dominant performance – rezal404

Vanessa Sarno retains her SEA Games crown.  —TEAM PHILIPPINES

Vanessa Sarno retains her SEA Games crown. —REUTERS

Before flying to the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia, Vanessa Sarno had little idea how she would be able to defend her title.

The 19-year-old weightlifter was going to do something she hadn’t done before: Compete in two tournaments with only a week to recover in between.

“I don’t know how to approach it, but I’ll just go out and play,” she said.

Sarno won three silver medals in the Asian championships in South Korea earlier this month, flew home to the Philippines and hopped on a plane to Cambodia the following day.

“I can’t really say if I can break my SEA Games record because I’ll be coming from the Asian [championships]. But I’ll still do my best to be better in the SEA Games,” Sarno said. “I want to win the gold. I just can’t say if I can better my record. We’re going to do heavy [load] in the Asian [championships] and then it’s going to be difficult to go heavy again in the SEA Games with just one week [to recuperate].”

So on Monday, as she took her turn in the spotlight for the women’s 71-kilogram event here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, her SEA Games record was far from Sarno’s mind.

She broke one of them anyway.

Sarno, last year’s champion in Hanoi, Vietnam, erased her own standard of 104 kg in the SEA Games with a 105 effort in the snatch.

The rising star from Tagbilaran, Bohol, later on attempted just once in the clean and jerk, hoisting 120 kg that ultimately clinched for her the title.

She totaled 225, a far cry from silver medalist Thipwara Chontavin of Thailand (208) and third-placer Restu Anggi of Indonesia (206).

“I didn’t try to break my record in the clean and jerk because of my left knee. It got strained after the Asian championships,” Sarno said, explaining why she no longer attacked her other SEA Games’ records in the clean and jerk (135 kg) and total lift (239 kg).

Even after participating in an Olympic qualifier, the SEA Games was always at the back of Vanessa Sarno's mind. —REUTERS

Even after participating in an Olympic qualifier, the SEA Games was always at the back of Vanessa Sarno’s mind. —REUTERS

“We could have gone for it,” said coach Tony Agustin. “But Vanessa was coming off the Asian championship, an Olympic qualifier, and her performance there was already high. We didn’t want to risk her [getting injured]. Our target anyway was the gold medal.”

Sarno’s victory is the second for the Philippine weightlifting team after Elreen Ando ruled the women’s 59 kg on Sunday.

Ando shattered all records in the women’s 59-kg division to sweeten her victory.

The 24-year-old pride of Cebu City lifted 98 kg, eclipsing the 96-kg standard established by Vietnam’s Hoang Thi Duyen during the Hanoi Games last year. Ando did the same in the clean and jerk with a 118-kg lift, again surpassing Hoang’s 2021 standard in the event at 115.

Sarno has been tagged one of the heirs apparent of Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo, the weightlifting heroine who ended the country’s gold medal drought in the Olympics, when she ruled the women’s 55-kg class in Tokyo in 2021. She has been living up to the label thus far and is pursuing a spot in the Paris Games next year.

“I have so many dreams in weightlifting,” she told the Inquirer earlier. “I’ve been through a lot of hardships already and I don’t want those hardships to go to waste.” That’s why her focus during her long preparation was the Asian championship.

“It’s an Olympic qualifier,” she explained.

But at the back of his mind, the SEA Games was always there. “I prepared really hard because I want to also win the gold [in the SEA Games],” she said.

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