Elreen Ando’s desire to land Olympic gold fueled by detractors

Elreen Ando’s desire to land Olympic gold fueled by detractors

Elreen Ando’s desire to land Olympic gold fueled by detractors

Elreen Ann Ando will spearhead the PH weightlifting team in Paris having big shoes to fill. —AFP

With Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo, the Philippines’ first and only Olympic gold medalist and sentimental favorite, failing to qualify for the Paris Summer Games that gets going next month, the responsibility of following up on her historic feat falls on three promising weightlifters.

And shouldering the heaviest burden is Elreen Ando, who actually ousted Diaz-Naranjo when they competed for the lone Olympic ticket available for the country in their face-off in the 59-kilogram category of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Cup in Thailand last April.

She will be joined by Asian junior weightlifting champion Vanessa Sarno and John Ceniza in the world’s fashion capital as part of a 15-strong Philippine contingent that will be shooting for the country’s second gold medal.


Ando getting there the way she did, naturally, had nonbelievers coming out in the open.

“I am drawing my strength from my family and people who don’t believe in me—I made them my motivation,” Ando, who was seventh in the 64-kilogram division in the Tokyo Games, said in Filipino.

Diaz-Naranjo and Ando crossed paths in qualifying after their respective events in Tokyo, the 55-kg for Diaz-Naranjo, were scrapped for the Paris edition, with the 59-kg bracket the middle ground for the PH aces.

But Ando proved her worth in Thailand by lifting a total of 228 kg, a personal-high, after clearing 100 kg in snatch and 128 kg in clean and jerk to finish seventh overall and overshadow Diaz-Naranjo’s total of 222 kg for 11th spot.


“When I was slowly losing my touch, I was also losing trust in myself and felt down, depressed and stressed and went through a lot of challenges,” Ando recalled of the time when she saw her chances returning to the Olympics dwindle following a disappointing finish in the Asian championships.

“So I talked to my coach and told him that I still want to compete in the Olympics so we talked and he motivated me to believe that I can still fight,” Ando added. “He was one of those who has a huge trust in me.”


The 25-year-old lifter shattered previous records in the Southeast Asian Games last year en route to a gold medal in her new weight class.

Better version

“I will still try to improve my lift and since it’s free to dream, of course I will be looking for the [Olympic] gold medal,” she said, believing that she is now a stronger version of herself compared to the one in Tokyo.

Sarno, earlier tipped as Diaz-Naranjo’s heir apparent, will be looking to make the most out of her first Olympic appearance behind the support of her family.

The 20-year-old out of Bohol is ranked No. 5 in the 71-kg division after posting a new Philippine record of 110 kg, to break her previous record of 108 kg last year, in snatch also in the IWF Cup to qualify in the Olympics with a 245 kg total lift.

“We are looking to prevent injuries [prior to the Olympics] while slowly improving our personal records,” Sarno said.

Another Cebuano in Ceniza will be making his Olympic debut after qualifying with an impressive 300 kg total lift also in the IWF Cup in the men’s 61-kg category where he finished fourth.

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“While competing, we can’t predict the time when we’ll get [the gold] but we are all doing everything we can to get the gold medal,” Ceniza said. INQ

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