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NSA working on Sarno wild card in Tokyo Olympics

/ 09:44 PM November 26, 2020
Vanessa Sarno

Vanessa Sarno at the podium. Photo from Asian Weightlifting Federation Facebook

MANILA, Philippines–Vanessa Sarno caught the attention of Hidilyn Diaz five years ago when, as a 12-year-old newbie, she would train and walk around barefooted.

Having come to Manila for the first time from her hometown of Tagbilaran, Sarno didn’t have shoes for training so the eventual Olympic silver medalist gave her a pair to use.

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It was a gesture that proved symbolic for Sarno, now considered a candidate to be an heir apparent of Diaz. She has since won two gold and two silver medals in the Asian Youth last year in North Korea.

And just recently, she captured three gold medals in the International Weightlifting Federation Online Youth World Cup.

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That prompted Samahang Weightlifting sa Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella to bid for a wild card entry for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

“She’s about the same age as Hidilyn when she first competed in Olympics in 2008,” said Puentevella, who as a former Asian Weightlifting Federation president, vowed to work his influence on her behalf.

Competing in the 71-kilogram category during the Online Youths, Sarno lifted her personal best in clean and jerk (118kg), but claimed she could do better than the 93kg she did in snatch.

“I think I can still do a lot better,” said Sarno in Filipino. “It was a surprise because I didn’t have formal training in months due to the lockdown. All I do is play on the beach all day.”

The second child in a brood of four, Sarno was born to fisherfolk parents who at the height of the pandemic, had to depend on her monthly allowances from the Philippine Sports Commission.

She learned the ropes watching weightlifting club members led by Nick and Lisa Jaluag train near the beach. So she tried to imitate them carrying drift wood washed ashore.

“One thing I like about weightlifting is that I only have myself to deal with unlike in team sports,” said Sarno. “I just hope it becomes more popular here in the Philippines.”

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Sarno felt that for the sport to finally hit the headlines, a Filipino must win a gold medal in the Olympics.

And she might well just have her shot.

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TAGS: Hidilyn Diaz, Tokyo Olympics, Vanessa Sarno, Weightlifting
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