HD Weightlifting CNMI makes debut

Posted on Jan 11 2023

HD Weightlifting CNMI members consisting of teenagers pose for a photo after the Northern Marianas Cup Weightlifting Tournament at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium last Saturday. (LEIGH GASES)

In a move to try and break the stigma against the youth in weightlifting, the HD Weightlifting Camp made its debut with its young competitors excelling last Saturday in the Northern Marianas Cup Weightlifting Tournament at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.

Led by coach and weightlifter Angel San Nicolas, teenagers Jaden Andrew, Kiien Manuel, Sean Mateo, John Castro, Aiden Gimed, and Anniegail Manuel showcased their strength and wowed the spectators with their strength despite their young age.

Thirteen-year-olds Jaden Andrew and Sean Mateo duked it out in the 61-kg division, with Andrew coming out on top lifting a total weight of 133 kg, which is more than twice his body weight. Andrew missed only one lift in his last attempt at the clean & jerk of 80 kg. His successful lifts were 55 kg, 60 kg, 63 kg, 65 kg, and 70 kg.

Mateo lifted a total of 80 kg after lifting 30 kg, 35 kg, 40 kg, and 45 kg.

Andrew said that he broke his personal bests in both lifts and thanked his coach for “training me everyday and my parents for dropping me.” He also said he hopes he gets to join the Guam weightlifting competition in February.

John Castro, who is also in middle school, lifted a total weight of 63 kg. He successfully lifted 25 kg, 28 kg, and 35 kg.

Siblings Kiien and Anniegail Manuel are also part of the camp and came out on top in their respective divisions. Kiien joined the 96-kg weight class and totaled 125 kg after completing all six lift attempts, while Anniegail topped her 64-kg weight class with a total weight lifted of 141 kg.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Gimed placed fourth in the 89-kg division after lifting a total of 120 kg. He missed only one attempt and successfully lifted 45 kg, 53 kg, and 60 kg in the snatch, and lifted 55 kg and 60 kg in the clean & jerk.

Gimed said the competition was good and that he felt confident in his snatch in which he said he broke his personal best and felt proud of it.

Proud coach Angel San Nicolas said after the event, “today, for me, it was really about them… Everyone in the youth category hit personal bests—all of them, as expected. I have to set a standard for them and so they know what I’m capable of in the training room, so it’s only fair that I show them my 100%.”

As for his club, he said that it’s an extended branch of HD Weightlifting Academy in the Philippines in alliance with Olympic weightlifting gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz. He said her husband, Julius Naranjo from Guam is his and Diaz’s coach. “Her husband is her strength and conditioning, and head coach, and he’s my head coach as well. And we’ve been working together with the kids. That’s something that I’ve kept from the public.”

As for why he just announced the club’s existence during the competition, San Nicolas said, “I wanted to surprise everyone [because] the public has never seen kids lift weights. Today, the intent was to break barriers and to remove the stigma that lifting weights is bad for kids. And today proves that it’s wrong. Kids can lift weights with proper training and with emphasis on form and technique.”

San Nicolas said that he trains with the kids at the Get Fit CNMI Gym in Gualo Rai six days a week from Monday to Saturday. Along with his own weight training and fulltime job, he still manages to coach. “On top of coaching them, I have to worry about my training as well.”

In his weightlifting club, the main focus is the youth. “We want to focus on the youth talent.”

He also said that with plans of having weightlifting included in the interscholastic sports program and with most of his competitors in middle school, “today just proved that middle school should be included. I believe middle school could compete against the high schools. They are very, very capable.”

The almost 30-year-old said he doesn’t know how much time he has left in the sport, “but I’m [going to] keep going hard and honestly, I’m not slowing down… I need these guys as much as they need me. A lot of times I decide I want to quit but it’s hard because of my passion for the sport.”

“I need the community to be behind us and to support weightlifting more. Even after the [Pacific] Mini Games, even after all that medal haul, I still feel like we’re still undermined and it’s okay—It’s okay. Slowly but surely, eventually we’ll be out there and the sport itself will get the respect it deserves in our community,” appealed San Nicolas.

Leigh Gases
Leigh Gases is the youngest reporter of Saipan Tribune and primarily covers community related news, but she also handles the utilities, education, municipal, and veterans beats. Contact Leigh at leigh_gases@saipantribune.com.
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