By Jean Malanum

PROMISING TALENT. Cristel Joy Francisco shows her gold medal and certificate after the awarding ceremony of the Batang Pinoy weightlifting competition at the Felicisimo Ampon Tennis Center’s Dacudao court inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Wednesday (Dec. 20, 2023). She won the 49kg category in the girls 13-15 years old division, posting a total lift of 120kgs (55kgs in snatch and 65kgs in clean and jerk). (PNA photo by Jean Malanum)

MANILA – Zamboanga City continues to dominate weightlifting, pocketing three gold medals in the Batang Pinoy and one in the Philippine National Games at the Felicisimo Ampon Tennis Center’s Dacudao court inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Wednesday.

Cristel Joy Francisco ruled the 49kg category in the girls 13-15 years old division, posting a total lift of 120kgs (55kgs in snatch and 65kgs in clean and jerk).

Able May Ella Bacaro of Cebu City tallied 119kgs (50-69) to settle for the silver medal while Roshell Villanueva, who had a total lift of 118kgs (50-68) placed third but did not get the bronze medal due to the rule implemented by the organizing Philippine Sports Commission in awarding medals.

“I’m so happy for winning my second gold medal in the Batang Pinoy,” said the 15-year-old Francisco, who topped the 40kg last year in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

“I just prayed to the Lord, hoping that I win more tournaments,” added the Grade 10 student at Mampang National High School. She is the youngest of two siblings, his elder brother who also tried weightlifting but has shifted to badminton.

Inspired by Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo, Francisco decided to take up the sport and has been training under national coach Allen Diaz since 2019.

“I am thankful to coach Allen. If not for his guidance, I wouldn’t be a gold medalist,” said Francisco, who trains for two hours in the morning and afternoon daily.

Strawberry Fate Tarro (45kg girls 13-15 years old), Kyle Jasper Bitong (49kg boys 13-15 years old) and Paolo Lozada (49kg men’s 16-17 years old) also contributed to the gold medal haul of Zamboanga City, which ranked third in the Batang Pinoy medal tally board with 13 golds, six silvers and two bronzes.

“Our target is to be in the Top 5. We are focusing on the individual sports,” said Zamboaga City sports development officer Cecil Atilano, who also serves as head of delegation.

Lifters Alex Daniel Buanghug (43kg boys 12 years old and under), Althea Bacaro (40kg girls 12 years old and under), Leonida Cambarijan (45kg women’s 18 years old and above) and Alberto Bacaro (55kg men’s 16-17 years old) topped their respective events for Cebu City, which is leading with 16 golds, 12 silvers and 15 bronze medals.

The other gold medalists were Rizal’s Jerick Icon Castro (55kg boys 13-15 years old), King Renzo Memoracion (61kg boys 13-15 years old) and Ma. Cyrinne Inan (45kg women’s 16-17 years old); Zamboanga del Sur’s Crezleen Yza Balarote (40kg girls 13-15 years old); Ifugao’s Eleapharaime Limmong (55kg men’s 18 years old and above); Tagbilaran City’s April Durango (49kg women’s 16-17 years old); Bulacan’s Mary Flor Diaz (49kg women’s 18 years old and above); and Mandaue City’s Jeamae Paligtiw (40+kg girls 12 years and under).

In gymnastics, Karl Jahriel Eldrew Yulo showed why he is the future of sport in the country, unleashing a dominant performance to complete a seven-gold sweep of the individual events in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics (MAG) competition.

Carrying the banner of Manila City, Yulo was simply a cut above the rest in the boys’ FIG Juniors 14-17 category, topping all the individual events– vault, still rings, floor exercise, high bar, parallel bar, pommel horse, and the individual all-around—at the GAP Gym in Intramuros, Manila.

The 15-year-old younger brother of two-time world champion Carlos, appeared poised to claim an eighth gold pending the official results of the team event where Yulo was part of the Manila squad, subject to deliberation by the technical committee.

There’s also a plan for the younger Yulo to join the seniors event in the Philippine National Games starting on Thursday.

Eldrew is being groomed as the next big thing after his elder brother, who clinched gold in the floor exercise at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, and the vault exercise at the 2021 World Championships in Japan.

Their grandfather Rodrigo Frisco, who is credited with introducing the sport to Carlos, expressed his belief that Eldrew would surpass his older brother in skill.

“Mas magaling ito (Eldrew) kesa sa kanyang kuya (Eldrew is better than his older brother),” Frisco said.

It was also time to shine for San Juan City’s Maria Celina Angela Gonzales who captured five four golds and a silver medal in the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics (WAG) High Performance 1.

Gonzales topped the Uneven Bars (6.500), Balance Beam (8.150), Floor Exercise (8.750) at Individual All-Around (34.700 while placing second for silver in the vault exercise, behind top finisher Tchelzy Mei Maayo City (9.350) of Taguig City.

Meanwhile, Tagum City’s team, comprising Hollie Bautista, Aluna Margauz Labrador, and Alessa Reese Solis, clinched victory in the team event with a total of 44.150 points.

In swimming, Pasig City’s Arvin Naeem Taguinota II continued his winning streak with his fourth gold medal in this multi-event competition for 17-years-old organized by the Philippine Sports Commission and backed by Office of the President, Pagcor, DILG, POC, PBA, Milo, Otsuka Solar-Pocari Sweat, PLDT-Smar, Grab, Chooks-to-go and Shakey’s.

Taguinota was part of the victorious Pasig relay team in the Boys’ 12-Under 200M Medley Relay to add up to his earlier triumphs in the Boys 8-12 200m IM, Boys 12 & Under 50m and 100m Backstroke.

Over at the Tagaytay City BMX Park, Guimaras City celebrated two gold medals, courtesy of Gremarc Gyan Dela Gente in the Boys’ 14-15 category and Ben Rian Babica in the Boys 16-17 category.

Sisters Leila Anika and Jeanne Soleil Cervantes secured gold medals for Paranaque City in BMX Girls 13& Under and Girls 14-15 categories, respectively. Emmanuel Redilla of the City of Imus emerged victorious in the Boys 13 Under category. (PNA)