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Philippine weightlifting team upbeat to snatch medals in SEAG

The Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas (SWP) is hoping to snatch four to five medals in the upcoming 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country will host from November 30 to December 11.

SWP President Monico Puentevella said his 10-strong Philippine weightlifting team, composed of Hidilyn Diaz (55kg), Mary Flor Diaz (45kg), Elien Rose Perez (49kg), Margaret Colonia (59kg), Elreen Ann Ando (64kg), Kristel Macrohon (71kg), John Fabuar Ceniza (55kg), Dave Llyod Pacaldo (61kg), Nestor Colonia (67kg) and Jeffrey Garcia (73kg), has what it takes to pull off a couple of surprises in the biennial meet.

"For the SEA Games, we're aiming for four to five medals. I am hoping that we will get at least one or two medals for men, and four medals for women," said Puentevella, who revealed that the SEA Games is part of the Association's long-term plan to send more Filipino lifters to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and hopefully even the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

"My master plan from the beginning was, like what I did to Hidilyn, let them join all these competitions, in between SEAG and Tokyo Olympics. After Tokyo, there will be more (Filipino Olympic qualifiers)." said Puentevella.

Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez is also pinning the country's hopes on the weightlifters, saying they are among the athletes who can be counted on to spring surprises in the biennial meet.

"The PSC has done its part in giving the athletes the opportunity to train and gave them exposure," Ramirez said. "The National Sports Associations (NSAs) have made their assessments on their chances and we are counting on them."

Of the group, Diaz has the most to prove even though she's a silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics and a gold winner in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games.

Diaz has yet to win a gold medal in SEA Games, settling only for silver medals in the Women's -58kg division at the 2013 Myanmar and 2011 Indonesia editions, and a bronze bronze medal in the 2007 Thailand meet.

Diaz, a native of Zamboanga City, recently nailed two bronze medals in the 2019 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand.

"Hidilyn's two bronze medals in Pattaya can be considered a silver, because she was beaten by two Chinese. In the Olympic rule, only one can represent a country," said the SWP chief of his prized athlete, who has been training for years under Chinese coach Kai Wen Gao.

Meanwhile, Olympian Colonia (-56kgs) hopes to bounce back from a fifth place finish at the 2017 Malaysian edition, where only five men's events were disputed, with Vietnam and Indonesia winning two gold medals each and Thailand with one gold.

"In the past 16 or 17 years, I only had Nestor Colonia for male, and Hidilyn Diaz for female, only two. But now, in the last world championship in Pattaya, I already had 10 weightlifters and some of them are preparing for the eventual retiring of Hidilyn after the Tokyo Olympics. And now that she has a boyfriend, she's now getting unsure about her plans," said Puentevella.

"I want to thank the PSC, Chairman Butch Ramirez and the Board, because they have given us complete support. I guess we have proven that we're deserving." Puentevella said.