SPEARHEADED by Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn F. Diaz, the Philippine weightlifting team is eyeing a minimum of two gold medals and a maximum of five in the Hanoi Southeast Asian (SEA) Games scheduled on May 12 to 23.

“We’re confident of winning at least two golds, we will fight for four or five golds,” said Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas president Monico Puentevella during Tuesday’s online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.

Ms. Diaz was one of the 13-strong team — seven women and six men — from the country seeing action in all but one of the 14 weight divisions calendared in the Hanoi meet.

And she should be the overwhelming favorite to claim her second mint in the biennial event.

Also tipped to strike gold are Asian champion Vanessa Sarno, 2019 SEA Games golden girl Kristel Macrohon, and Olympian Elreen Ando.

Fernando Agad, Jr., Rowel Garcia, Nestor Colonia, Lemon Denmark Tarro, John Kevin Padullo, John Dexter Tabique, Mary Flor Diaz, Rosegie Ramos, and Margaret Colonia are the other members of the national squad.

Mr. Puentevella, however, warned it wouldn’t be a walk in the park as he expects strong challenges to come from host Vietnam and Thailand, which was back after serving a suspension from the International Weightlifting Federation due to alleged doping.

“Vietnam is doing well and I was told Thailand will return to the SEA Games,” said Mr. Puentevella. “But I’m optimistic we will pull off a surprise or two outside those athletes who are expected to contend.”

Mr. Puentevella is also hoping to use the Hanoi experience as a gauge on who to send in the Hangzhou Asian Games set on Sept. 10 to 25 and the World Championships at a still unspecified date and venue this year.