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John Ceniza’s Journey: From Humble Beginnings to Olympic Weightlifting Success

Growing up in Pasil, Cebu, life presented many challenges for John Ceniza. Raised by his grandmother, who struggled to make ends meet, Ceniza took on odd jobs as a boy server in the neighborhood to earn enough for survival.

Ceniza followed his parents to Cebu City when he was fifteen years old, hoping for a better future. But life continued to be difficult until he developed a passion for weightlifting, thanks to the encouragement of his brother and brother-in-law.

Standing at 5’5″, Ceniza began competing in regional events, including Batang Pinoy and the Philippine National Games (PNG) in 2014, eventually earning a spot on the national team.

“I moved to Cebu City hoping for a better life, but things didn’t improve much. In 2013, I asked my sibling-in-law to teach me weightlifting, and within months, I started competing regionally. Shortly after, I participated in Batang Pinoy, and within a year, I made it to the national team,” shared Ceniza, a student-athlete at the University of Cebu.

“My interest in weightlifting grew thanks to my brother, who is also a weightlifter. I enjoyed using his equipment, the same ones he used for training in regional and Batang Pinoy competitions.”

Now 26, Ceniza has achieved his greatest milestone yet as an athlete—qualifying for the Paris Olympics. With a fifth-place finish in the Olympic Qualification Ranking (OQR) points in the men’s 61 kg category and a best total lift of 300 kg, he is poised for a podium finish. His competitors in the top three positions—China’s Li Fabin, USA’s Hampton Morris, and Italy’s Sergio Massidda—recorded best lifts of 314 kg, 303 kg, and 302 kg, respectively. By surpassing his previous best lift by just 5 kg, Ceniza could secure a silver or bronze medal.

“I just hope that my injury (left shoulder) gets healed, and then we can get quality vitamins now that the Games are still quite far away. It’s good to train in Taipei and then Metz because you have a fresh environment.”

Ceniza and fellow Filipino Paris-bound weightlifters Vanessa Sarno (women’s 71 kg) and Elreen Ando (women’s 59 kg) will continue their training in Taipei and then to Metz, France.

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